Former foreign minister refuses to testify in court
The former Estonian foreign minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, who resigned in July, following the Tallinn Circuit Court decision which made her partly liable for her father's bankrupt company's dept, refused to give any evidence in court.
The criminal trial – separate from the civil case in which the former foreign minister was named partly liable – in which her father Väino Pentus and former lawyer Siim Roode are accused of organizing a big scam in order to avoid orderly bankruptcy proceedings started in September.
Pentus-Rosimannus was asked to attend the trial as a witness this week, but she had a legal option not to give evidence on the grounds that one of the defendants is her father – and she chose not to testify.
Pentus-Rosimannus told media that she wishes to remain silent on the matter, as to “protect her dad from the pain of seeing his daughter under cross-examination in court.”
The Autorollo scandal, as it is known in Estonia, first caught the public eye in 2012. The now defunct trucking company was owned by Väino Pentus, the father of Keit Pentus-Rosimannus.
The public attention in this case came from the fact that before the bankruptcy, Autorollo was drained of money over a short period from 2010-2011. A large amount of money was withdrawn from the firm's account and some of the bank transfers were made from the personal IP addresses of Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, an MP at the time. Väino Pentus testified at one point at court during the previous civil case that part of the money that was intended for Autorollo was used to build Pentus-Rosimannus's house in Tallinn's Viimsi district instead; he later recanted.
Väino Pentus's case has its roots in 2008 when he decided to buy out his partner in the trucking business. In order to proceed, he borrowed 11 million Estonian kroons (about 700,000 euros). It has been reported that creditors were hesitant to issue loans to him, but ultimately decided to, thanks to his son-in-law Rain Rosimannus being an influential Reform Party MP at the time. But the company ran into trouble soon and Pentus asked his daughter and son-in-law to help. The help came in the form of instating lawyer Siim Roode in charge of Autorollo's affairs in April 2010.
According to the prosecution in the criminal case, the company was already in a very bad shape by that time and Roode and Pentus subsequently organized a big scam, to avoid orderly bankruptcy proceedings, and free Väino Pentus from being personally liable for dept. Their actions wiped 1.5 million Estonian kroons (approximately 94,000 euros) worth of assets off from Autorollo's books, the prosecution said.
In 2012, a civil lawsuit was brought against Keit Pentus-Rosimannus, Rain Rosimannus and their lawyer Siim Roode, in which some of the Autorollo creditors claimed almost 580,000 euros from the trio. The suing creditors argued that the prominent political family used a scam to hide money, behaved like bogus firm directors and eventually let Autorollo go down the drain. Keit Pentus-Rosimannus prevailed in all facets of the civil case at the court of first instance, but her husband was partly found at fault.
The circuit court ruling on July 1 this year overturned the first instance judgment, forcing Keit Pentus-Rosimannus to resign on the same day. She was replaced by Marina Kaljurand.