Supreme Court rejects all appeals in Liviko court case

The guilty verdicts handed down to Estonian alcohol producer Liviko and executives at several major retail chains in a cartel case in 2015 and upheld by an appellate court in December 2016 became final on Wednesday after the Supreme Court rejected all ten appeals filed by parties in the case.

Most recently, in a retrial of what came to be know as the vodka cartel case, Tallinn Circuit Court in mid-December upheld the April 2015 judgement of the first-tier Harju County Court which found the alcoholic beverage producer Liviko and several large retail chains guilty of entering into a cartel agreement. The second-tier court concluded that the lower court's decision was lawful, consistent with the collected evidence and thoroughly reasoned, and that there were no grounds for overturning it.

Parties to the proceeding then filed 10 appeals with the Supreme Court.

On Jan. 20, 2016, Tallinn Circuit Court partly overturned the county court's April 29, 2015 guilty verdict for five companies and nine persons as well as terminated the proceeding on the grounds that the limitation period had expired. The county court's decision to acquit two defendants remained unchanged and the prosecutor's appeal was turned down.

Charges had been brought against Liviko, retail chains Selver, Rimi Eesti Food, Maxima Eesti and Prisma Peremarket as well as 11 representatives of said companies.

According to the charge sheet, in 2009, the defendants entered into a competition-harming agreement to raise the retail price of vodkas with 40 percent alcohol by volume (ABV) in the cheaper price range to at least 63.50 kroons (€4.06) per standard half-liter bottle.

The Supreme Court in turn overturned the circuit court's June 20, 2016 ruling and returned the case to the second-tier court for retrial with a new panel of judges. Contrary to the circuit court, the top court found that the county court had prosecuted the accused in a correct manner and that the case had not expired.

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