Edgar Savisaar’s legal costs currently account for over half of the Center Party’s total legal expenses.
Party Secretary General Jaak Aab told ERR’s online news portal that as contracts are confidential he cannot disclose the exact amounts of the party’s various legal bills, however he did note that current legal expenses total around 170,000 euros. Of this total, over half are made up of legal costs incurred by former longtime party chairman and Tallinn ex-mayor Edgar Savisaar, while legal aid has also been utilized by Kalev Kallo as well as the nonprofit MTÜ Eesti Keskerakond. Lawyer Paul Varul’s services were likewise used when an expert legal analysis was ordered earlier this year regarding the validity of letters of guarantee issued by former party secretary general Priit Toobal.
The Center Party’s total budget is approximately 1.5 million euros.
Aab did not wish to specify the exact amount of the party’s current debt, however he noted that it is an amount that is entirely recoverable from conventional cash flows. “There are practically no campaign costs at the moment; there is a small amount tied to OÜ Midfield,” the party secretary general explained. “Other larger debts are the ones tied to to law firms with whom we have concluded payment schedules, as legal costs have been very high recently due to Edgar Savisaar’s matters.”
More worrisome, however, are potentially large claims which may arise in relation to Savisaar’s current court case, the party’s letters of guarantee as issued by Toobal, which were only just discovered earlier this year, as well as a claim by the Estonian Supervisory Committee on Party Financing (ERJK). “We have taken into account the possible obligations that may arise in conjunction with these cases,” said Aab.
The ERJK is demanding that Edgar Savisaar pay 117,000 euros back into Tallinn city coffers. The party financing watchdog has also proposed that the party take over this claim as well.
“Savisaar will still be talked to first,” Aab said. “We will not rush ahead of ourselves. The claim is against him. The Center Party has been involved in the proceedings so that it would remain aware of steps taken by Savisaar and could keep an eye on how things are going. A proposal was made by the ERJK that we at some point take over this claim. But as this money is to be paid back to the city of Tallinn, Edgar Savisaar is negotiating with the city of Tallinn.”
The party official admitted that it was difficult to say how likely it was that Savisaar would bear this claim himself. “I understand that the ERJK is waiting on a concrete agreement and a letter from Savisaar stating in what time he intends to pay it off,” he explained.
Aab has also not ruled out a settlement on the party’s part once Savisaar’s case reaches court, but he stressed that the matter still first and foremost involved Savisaar himself.
Center still wants to move out of Toompea
On the subject of the sale of the Center Party’s headquarters in Tallinn, the secretary general said that an appraisal of the property should be completed this week. Aab noted that he envisioned the party’s future operation in an entirely new property. “The wish is still to move out of here,” he said. “In terms of both location and functionality of the rooms this isn’t the most suitable place for the headquarters of a political party. It is also very difficult to access.”
Whether the party was interested in buying or renting new office space, Aab was yet unable to say. In his estimation, relocating to a new office may be a matter of months.
Editor: Editor: Aili Vahtla