Prosecution makes massive blunder sending out internal document that undermines case (4)
In a highly unprofessional move, the Estonian Prosecution Office sent Edgar Savisaar's defense team an internal document which openly questions the basis of most of the bribery allegations against Tallinn Mayor. The document was immediately leaked to the press.
Eesti Päevaleht reported today that Laura Vaik, the public prosecutor in Savisaar’s case, emailed an internal document, which highlights the weaknesses in the allegations against Savisaar, to Savisaar’s lawyers who then proceeded to make the document public.
Vaik said that the internal document was sent out “by mistake” – the Prosecution Office was supposed to send out a different document, in relation to suspending Savisaar from his position as Mayor of Tallinn. Vaik said that due to “similarity of titles of the two documents”, she emailed the wrong one instead.
The document which was later also made public by the Estonian media, gives the first detailed glimpse on what Savisaar and other suspects in the bribery case are actually accused of – and in all instances, the Prosecution has questioned the claims.
The document shows that according to one allegation, Savisaar promised favourable rental contracts for a prominent businessman Aleksander Kofkin – long known to be a supporter of the Center Party and whose company has for years rented properties in Tallinn city center. Kofkin also owns Meriton Grand Hotel Tallinn near Toompea. Tallinn City Government indeed signed a new 10-year lease contract, with Savisaar's signature, with Kofkin’s company for properties in the city center, but for higher price than his previous contracts. Hence the prosecution’s notes say that “the claim is about extending a rental contract, but it is not possible to say that it was more favourable compared to other contracts.”
The other allegation is that a businessman Vello Kunman promised to pay the Center Party 20,000 euros, in exchange of getting a permission to complete Kunman’s residence in Nõmme suburb in Tallinn. Kunman had previously demolished his old house, without City Government’s permission, and started to build a new one. According to allegation, a former politician and minister Villu Reiljan – who pleaded guilty in 2010 for taking a bribe as a Minister of Environment in a separate case – who now works as an adviser to Kunman, was supposed to mediate the deal between Kunman and Savisaar, which would have allowed the new building. The prosecution says in its notes that “as we don’t have the documents yet which are related to Kunman’s property, we cannot confirm that his housebuilding was illegal, rather that he didn’t have permission.” To add to the fiasco, Eesti Päevaleht wrote on Thursday that Savisaar himself, while still in a hospital, had signed the City Government’s order to demolish the new house which was built without permission. However, it is not known the letter was sent out prior to or after the alleged bribe.
The most serious allegation in financial terms concern land exchange, which was supposedly expected to take place between the City Government and Hillar Teder, who is one of the richest entrepreneurs in Estonia. Teder’s company wanted a plot near Kadriorg Park – one of the most treasured areas in Tallinn – and offered a land somewhere else in exchange. According to allegation, Teder was supposed to lend 275,000 euros to the Center Party for the favor. Kalev Kallo, the chairman of Tallinn City Council, who is also in charge of the Center Party financial affairs, was expected to be the mediator in this deal. But the prosecution’s notes say that “the exchange has not taken place, as there was only an agreement. The deal was not realised and was suspended when Savisaar was taken ill in March. We also lack information concerning the application for the land exchange.” Eesti Päevaleht added on Thursday that while Savisaar was in hospital, deputy mayor Kalle Klandorf had sent a letter to Teder, in which the City Government actually declined his offer for a land exchange.
The fourth allegation – probably the most water-proof, if proved accurate – concerns construction entrepreneur Aivar Tuulberg. According to the document, Savisaar gave Tuulberg’s company a green light in the procurement of Kultuurikatel reconstruction, in exchange of 50,000 euros. It has not been specified whether Savisaar was personally bribed or the money was supposed to go to the Center Party. Kultuurikatel is a creative hub in a former power plant near Port of Tallinn and according to allegation, two companies participated in the City Government-organized procurement to reconstruct the building, but Tuulberg’s bid was selected, although it was higher than the competing bid. Prosecution said in its notes that “all companies can participate in the procurement process, but his firm was fixed to be the winner, despite the other one recognised as the winner first.”
State's Prosecutor General Lavly Perling disclosed on Tuesday that Tallinn Mayor Edgar Savisaar is suspect in episodes of corruption: unjustified extension of a lease contract for which he obtained benefits; allowing the construction of a house that lacked a building permit to continue in return for assets; exchange of land plots and promised compensation; and an episode connected to a tender, for which property or assets were obtained.
Savisaar has rejected all accusations.
Before the document emerged, Internal Security Service (ISS) chief Arnold Sinisalu said in an interview to ETV that they have conclusive proof that Savisaar knew what he was doing and tried to mask the true nature of his actions, trying to make everything look legally correct.
Several security and media experts have also cast doubt on whether ISS and State Prosecution would go after Savisaar and a host of prominent businessmen if they didn't have substantial proof to back up their claims.