Rural affairs minister: I was unaware of adviser's conflict of interest

Mart Järvik arrives back in Tallinn Friday evening.
Mart Järvik arrives back in Tallinn Friday evening. Source: ERR

Minister for Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (EKRE) says he had no idea about former adviser Urmas Arumäe's potential conflict of interest, Baltic News Service reports.

Speaking to the awaiting media at Tallinn Airport Friday evening, as he arrived back from a working trip to China, Järvik, who has faced calls to resign from opposition parties this week, said he had no reason to doubt Arumäe, who stepped down Friday afternoon, adding he had to meet with various people over the weekend before issuing further comment.

Järvik is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) to discuss two controversies surrounding the rural affairs minister, on Monday.

Järvik had hired Urmas Arumäe, a lawyer who had represented his son in a 2016 case, in May this year, on a part-time basis. According to media reports on Thursday, Arumäe had however continued to work on behalf of eight clients accused of EU subsidy fraud, and against an authority, the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA), which comes under the rural affairs ministry remit.

While Arumäe stepped down Friday, soon after the prosecutor's office launched an investigation into the matter, controversy still surrounds Järvik's role in the events, given it appears he declined to sign a mandate which would have allowed the PRIA to claim damages against Arumäe's clients.

The second controversy surrounding Järvik concerns the timing when he became aware of Listeria bacteria traced to the M.V.Wool fish processing plant at Harku, west of Tallinn. While Järvik maintains he first became aware of the issue, linked to the deaths of two people in Estonia, and several more Europe-wide, in mid-August, ministry records suggest that he may have known about it as early as June.

Järvik told the media Friday that he had not intentionally misled the public about anything.

"If something is misunderstood, it is not conscious lying," he said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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