Through lawyers, Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar challenged reports that he had benefited from a large loan being "forgiven," saying the 173,000 euros was essentially repaid and no gift was made.
It was reported Friday that Liechtenstein businessman Peter Keiser would not be collecting on a 173,000 euro loan granted to Savisaar. The media suggested that Savisaar had in effect received a large gift. It was also reported that a second, separate loan was also forgiven.
Savisaar's lawyers at Lextal said only the Keiser loan had been closed and that the second debt was still outstanding. The Keiser loan, said advocate Oliver Nääs, had been secured by a company that published books written by Savisaar. The proceeds of publishing paid off the loans and thus it was not a gift, said Nääs.
That was not enough for Estonia's political party financing oversight committee chairman, who said today that red flags have been raised.
The official, Ardo Ojasalu, told Delfi the case was not in his committee's jurisdiction, but said it was at least on equal footing with the so-called "Volvo scandal," when MPs received benefits that weren't available to the general public.
"Essentially it's taking advantage of influence from an official position for personal interests. Because Savisaar also heads the Center Party, it is even more critical, because he has extensive influence on governance in Tallinn and it may not be only personal gain but a creation of certain perquisites in the sphere of his authority," said Ojasalu.
The Parliamentary anti-corruption committee should evaluate the case and find out whether the loan transaction was a cover for movement of funds for some other purpose, Ojasalu said.