Ratas: Center Party will defend itself in court, but accept ruling and pay up
The Center Party is facing charges alongside its former chairman, Edgar Savisaar, who is accused of having accepted illegal political donations. Prime Minister and current party chairman, Jüri Ratas, said on Tuesday that his party would defend itself in court, but that if it was decided that the party should carry the costs, it would do so.
The Center Party wished to find a solution in the case, Ratas said. If that solution was that the party should carry the costs, then it would do that. “The whole case needs to be a lesson for the future for the party and its current leadership,” Ratas added.
For any party in the Riigikogu and the government, being involved in a criminal case was a serious issue, Ratas said. “The party needs to offer explanations, and if necessary defend itself. One thing is clear, the Center Party doesn’t need to be a party that writes to its lawyers every day, or fight the Estonian state in court. The way I see it, the Center Party needs to be a regular not-for-profit that represents political views and fights for its platform and ideas,” he added.
The Center Party as a legal person is facing charges in the case of illegal political donations accepted by its former chairman, Edgar Savisaar. The amount in question is €275,000.
Advertising man Paavo Pettai, who has worked with the Center Party for a long time, was originally going to face charges for aiding an illegal donation, but decided to cooperate with the Office of the Prosecutor General. No criminal charges were brought up against him, Prosecutor General Lavly Perling said on Tuesday.
Talking to ETV’s “Aktuaalne Kaamera” newscast, the Center Party’s secretary general, Jaak Aab, said that the potential financial demands would not be easy on the party.
“One reason why the extraordinary congress assembled was that a critical mass [of members] in the party was fed up with all this rubbish concerning financial matters,” Aab said. “More than half of the party decided that it was time to put an end to it.”
Charges against Savisaar presented to lawyers on Tuesday
Businessmen Aivar Tuulberg, Alexander Kofkin, Hillar Teder, and Vello Kunman are accused of giving a bribe to Savisaar. Paavo Pettai is accused of counterfeiting or falsification and aiding the making of a prohibited donation.
Kalev Kallo, chairman of the Tallinn City Council, is accused of aiding the giving and accepting of a bribe, and former politician Villu Reiljan of arranging a bribe for Savisaar. The Center Party is facing charges in the same case.
Savisaar has been charged with four counts of accepting a bribe, money laundering, and acceptance of a prohibited donation for the Center Party on a large scale. He is also facing embezzlement charges in connection with using funds of the Tallinn City Council to run a political advertising campaign.