VEB Committee Failed in Attempt to Question Elusive CEO of Company

6/19/2014 2:20 PM
Category: Economy

Parliament's VEB Fund investigation committee attempted several times to interview the head of the mysterious Russian-Singaporean trading company that was able to rescue some of the funds from the former Soviet bank, but failed, Estonian media report.

As findings of several inquiries released this week indicated, leading Estonian bankers - central bank governor Siim Kallas, who in 1995 relinquished his post for Vahur Kraft - said they have no memory of details of a letter from the Estonian central bank that credited TSL International with 32.3 million dollars. That meant that Aleksander Matt, the executive of TSL, was a person of key interest. 

Matt, born in 1962 and a Russian-speaking Estonian citizen, did not have a permanent place of residence in Estonia, but the committee contacted the police and Foreign Ministry. Matt did not respond in person but said in the media that he would ignore the subpoenas as he could "lose his composure" in a hearing. His longest comment to the press was a somewhat circuitous interview in Eesti Ekspress (in Estonian, but worth it for the photo aesthetic) from December 2013 in which he maintained that all of the money that TSL International retrieved was its own.  

This January, Matt contacted the committee again and said he would show up at a February 26 hearing. But he did not, citing "unforeseen circumstances." He again promised to appear at the next one, but again pulled a no-show. The committee had the power to fine Matt (the 258th richest man on Forbes's 2008 list, and worth 270 million dollars) a couple thousand euros but chose not to.

Since then, Matt and TSL International have been incommunicado. 

TSL's claim against VEB - non-existent at the time that the Estonian central bank falsely credited it with the millions - was later matched through buying securities from the Estonian government. 

"The committee doesn't know who withdrew the TSL International money in St. Petersburg and we will certainly not start to speculate on that topic," said Rainer Vakra, the head of the committee, at a press conference yesterday related to the committee's final report, in which it found that Estonian authorities were complicit in drafting fraudulent claims to help TSL.  

A committee member, Aivar Riisalu, said that he had nothing to hold against Matt, personally. "He had a chance and he was able to use it."

Riisalu said some questions will be answered in 2084, as materials are sealed until then. "We have to keep in shape and work out and then some of us will be around at age 90 to see the materials," Riisalu said.


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