Talvik: President's office likely to have played bigger role than thought in Ermamaa case
The office of former President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, which likely influenced the process of reclaiming support from Ilves' company OÜ Ermamaa, has received disproportionately little attention in the case, Chairman of the Anti-Corruption Select Committee of the Riigikogu Artur Talvik said following his meeting with Hanno Tomberg, the recently dismissed CEO of Enterprise Estonia.
"The way I see it, the Office of the President has gotten off very lightly," Talvik told BNS. "Their role in this affair was bigger than it has been depicted until now, particularly as far as influencing the making of the decision concerning Ermamaa was concerned."
He said that the special committee learned from Tomberg on Monday that the president's office had contacted the board of Enterprise Estonia in connection with the Ermamaa grant payback in August, displaying clear interest in the decision to be made, which in his words indicated a bigger influence than has been known until now.
"My personal opinion is that Tomberg has been unfairly punished," Talvik continued. "The Ilves-era Office of the President has been left out of the picture and further inquiry should investigate their activity more closely." He added that the background to Enterprise Estonia's 2012 decision to reclaim just ten percent of the money granted to Ermamaa as well as Minister of Entrepreneurship Liisa Oviir's real motives for getting Tomberg sacked required more thorough investigation as well.
Although multiple loose ends remained in the Ermamaa case, the future of the select committee was now unclear due to confusing time in the Riigikogu, Talvik said, referring to the recent collapse of the previous ruling coalition and installation of a new coalition government. "Committees are about to change and I can't say whether these changes will affect the anti-corruptin select committee as well," he said, noting that the committee had not agreed to any new meetings over the Ermamaa case for the time being.
In addition, the committee did not plan to draw up a summary of its work to date as it would be too much of a bubble, said Talvik.
Enterprise Estonia announced in October that it had claimed back a total of 19,039 euros from OÜ Ermamaa following the receipt of written notification from current owner Toomas Hendrik Ilves that the company did not intend to continue providing tourism services at his Ärma Farm, the development for which it had received an Enterprise Estonia grant amounting to nearly 200,000 euros in 2006. Likewise in October, immediately following the swearing-in of his successor as president Kersti Kaljulaid, Ilves paid back the amount required of him, which formed just ten percent of the total sum of the original grant.
The Ministry of Finance's audit published earlier this month found that Ermamaa should still repay Enterprise Estonia 90 percent of the support received for developing Ilvs' Ärma Farm and that Enterprise Estonia was mistaken in seeking the recovery of just ten percent of the money.