Pealinn: Russian Businessmen Received Other Benefits Through Officials in Residence Permit Scandal ({{commentsTotal}})

Juhan Parts.
Juhan Parts. Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

An article in the Tallinn city government newspaper Pealinn accuses economy minister Juhan Parts and other IRL politicians of continuing to take money through legitimate channels from prominent Russian businessman in return for "state services."

Besides the residence permits scandal - which erupted in 2011, involved three IRL politicians and had an indirect tie-in to two ministers - one Russian businessman said to have received a permit back then also received assistance this year in obtaining a European aviation certificate, journalist Virkko Lepasalu charged in Pealinn.

Owners of the Russian aviation company FortAero, led by Aaron Raihstein, bought Estonian Air subsidiary Estonian Air Regional in early July, after "long seeking entry" to the EU market.

Raihstein was one of the businessmen who allegedly secured a residence permit through services provided by the company Advisory Services, owned by Nikolai Stelmach of IRL.

Stelmach and two other politicians, Indredk Raudne and Siim Kabrits, found themselves at the center of a scandal in late 2011 over the residence permit affair.

Most businessmen were interested in the residence permit because it allowed them to operate in Estonia's uncomplicated business environment, where corporate income tax is assessed only on dividends, noted the article in Pealinn.

But in the case of Raihstein, it was the aviation certificate that was the motive, the paper alleged. The sale of Estonian Air Regional did not involve any planes or personnel changing hands, the newspaper said, but it allowed Fortaero a toehold in the EU market. Pealinn speculated that Fortaero could have designs on Estonian Air proper as well, and quoted Parts from several years ago, when the minister said that Estonian Air was not a strategically sensitive company that should have been off-limits to investors from certain countries.