Prosecutors Dismiss Claims of Money Laundering, Ansip Cries Bias
Reacting to prosecutors' swift decision not to investigate money laundering allegations against the Center Party, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip was quick to remind officials of the exhaustive investigation against his own party in a similar case last year, which failed to yield evidence for charges.
In an Eesti Ekspress article today, a member of the Center Party, Tarmo Lausing, said he had helped the party launder 350,000 Estonian kroons (22,000 euros). After the allegations surfaced, a swift statement from the Prosecutor's Office followed, saying the matter would not be investigated because the statute of limitations had expired, reported uudised.err.ee.
But the vaguely pinpointed time of the events - "at some point after 2005" - has been a matter of contention.
Speaking at a weekly government press conference today, Ansip said: "I am surprised by the speed in which the Prosecutor's Office has been able to announce that the circumstances surrounding the Center Party's alleged funding scandal have all expired already."
He said: "My understanding of the article was that the events took place after 2005. That could mean it happened yesterday. In no way can it be concluded that the erstwhile transactions are expired for the purposes of investigation. I would have expected that the Prosecutor's Office would at least get in touch with Lausing and inquire about the details."
Implying a sense of injustice, Ansip recalled what he called an "eager investigation" against his own Reform Party's money matters last year, when authorities questioned dozens of party member and checked their bank accounts without finding any evidence of wrongdoing. Meanwhile, Ansip claimed, the Social Democrats and Center Party have avoided such onerous probes.
"It's sad, but the selectivity of launching a case is becoming increasingly apparent. This situation should not be permitted in Estonia," Ansip said.
One factor in the Prosecutor Office decision could be that it does not want to stir up the upcoming municipal elections, due on October 20.
Election season often calls for special rules. For instance, there was protest recently when a regularly broadcast radio interview with the prime minister was suspended; but as journalists pointed out, there would have been even more protest from other political parties had the show been aired.