Even prior to LDz Chief Ugis Magonis’ arrest talks were initiated about the future holder of the post of Chairman in Estonian railway company Eesti Raudtee. This particular post could be taken by Sulevs Loo – a person who had previously held a high post in Gunvor Group, a company owned by Gennady Timchanko, a «friend» of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Transit experts believe that the neighbouring courty uses the situation with the weakened LDz well. They allow for the possibility that even if Estonian competitors may not have contributed to Magonis’ arrest, they have most assuredly used this situation for their own benefit, Pietiek reports.
Eesti Raudtee, whose board member Raivo Vare announced immediately after Magonis’ arrest that this situation could allow Estonia develop its railway transit, did not provide an answer to Pietiek’s question as to the possible final decision and signing of the contract with Loo. It was mentioned in a July’s report that talks may last until 1 September.
The proposed Chief of the Estonian railway company had previously worked in Gunvor Group, whose main field of operation has been trade of oil and oil products for many years. One of the founders of Gunvor is Timchenko, a figure close to Putin. After the adoption of American sanctions, Timchenko formally sold his 44% of shares to Torbjörn Törnqvist.
With that, it is believed the possible new head of the Estonian railway company may prove more valuable in the eyes of Russian partners than Magonis. As it is known, Magonis’ close ties to Russian Railway Chief Vladimir Yakunin are mentioned as one of the main factors for unrelenting transit of Russian cargoes through Latvia. Experts believe Estonia has reacted quickly and precisely to opportunities that opened following the arrest of Magonis.
Chairman of Latvian Logistics Association Normunds Krumins told Pietiek that the version how the reasons for Magonis’ arrest could lie in Estonia and that this arrest may have been a card played by the neighbouring country to take over Russian transit from Latvia sounds very believable.
«Used our institution’s lust for power and provided the right information. No charges have been presented to Osinovskis, whose company, Skinest, may be involved in the act of bribery. I think that’s a good index. If no one gave the bribe, no one accepted one,» – said Krumins.
When asked if Magonis’ arrest was provoked by Estonia in order to take over Russian transit, Krumins said: «I don’t know whether or not they had provoked it, but they have reacted quickly to it. It’s an example of a respectable country. If we look at surnames mentioned by our side [as potential managers of LDz], I’d say it’s all a poor joke. Does anyone have contacts in Russian Railway?! I think every other Latvian student has contact with one of the tens of thousands of employees in Russian Railway.»
As noted by transport expert Talis Linkaits, it is fairly suspicious that information about reasons behind Magonis’ arrest comes from Estonia. «We see that text come into Latvia from Estonia. The whole story about Magonis attempting to flee Corruption Prevention and Combating Bureau came from Estonian press. Even Osinovskis’ statement that Magonis was carrying money for Yakunin came from Estonian newspapers. It’s clear they’re brewing something,» – said the expert.
Founder of Latvian Logistics Association Kalvis Vitolins has wider thoughts about the involvement of the Estonian side in Magonis’ arrest. «I believe in a time when the basic postulates of NATO security are at risk, it becomes hard to transfer funds through banks to offshores. It also makes money laundering from activities associated with a country like Russia more complicated. These people control one of the most important strategic objects – the railway. This puts these people on the list of names that are of particular interest for many institutions (within both NATO and Russia). Transfer on money in such talks is the best part. Small bribes are of little interest to anyone, but when opportunities for more serious influence show themselves, this kind of information NATO can provide it to institutions of multiple countries – both Latvia and Estonia… This may have been one such case. […] It seems to me that a more grounded and regional theory of these bribes is more interesting. If we admit that the bribe was meant for a person higher up, and Yakunin seems like a more appropriate potential recipient than Magonis, It is entirely possible the person who gave the bribe could be provided with a smaller sentence (Section 324 of the Criminal Law). This would benefit Magonis on account that he may have been forced to give the bribe – to provide Yakunin a bribe in order to ensure continued cargo transit through Latvia. Magonis may use this to his advantage. Osinovskis’ theory that it was a business deal could help as well, considering now we know there were other people involved in the locomotive procurement. It’s also possible that Magonis could have had such a big amount of money on his person based on information from his declaration… time will tell.
Yakunin could potentially become an ambassador and come to Latvia. And he would be able to remain here, accused by Magonis, but will full diplomatic immunity, and with backing from the Russian Federation. In that case it would be impossible to prevent him from entering Latvia. One wink and no more cargo transit for Latvia!» – Vitolins shares his thoughts.