Suspicions of locals around minister's past land deal in Järvakandi

Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik
Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The police investigated how the Järvakandi rural municipality sold a plot of land on favorable terms to a company with ties to then rural municipality mayor Mart Järvik. The investigation was terminated without any penalties ordered immediately before Järvik became Estonia's rural affairs minister, Pealtnägija reports.

Järvakandi honorary citizen Ants Sepp and rural municipality council member Enno Alliksaar said they recognize Järvik's conduct as rural affairs minister from when he was still the Järvakandi rural municipality mayor.

Järvik became the rural municipality mayor for Järvakandi in 2002 and remained in office until the municipality disappeared from the map as a result of Estonia's administrative reform in 2017. Järvik and his son were also local businessmen.

Enno Alliksaar was chairman of the Järvakandi rural municipality council for eight years and a member for all 15 years Järvik served as mayor. Even though Alliksaar represents the Reform Party and Järvik the Conservative People's Party (EKRE), cooperation was successful until Estonia started merging municipalities.

Järvik supports Järvakandi merging with Kehtna instead of Rapla

As was often the case back then, the sides fell out over what local government unit to join. Even though locals gathered around 400 signatures in favor of joining Rapla and the local opinion poll reflected a similar desire, a small group of people led by Järvik preferred merging with Kehtna. They explained that geographically speaking, Järvakandi was located inside Kehtna rural municipality.

While there are many theories for why the council voted against many local people's desire to join Rapla, it is a fact that Järvakandi's 1,200 residents allowed Kehtna to remain an independent municipality.

While Järvik's critics in Järvakandi can talk about the mayor's autocratic style or the rural municipality's untidy financial situation, it is largely a matter of perception and qualifies as brandishing of fists after the fight has ended. However, there was one episode that also merited the police's attention.

During a rural municipality government sitting only a little time before the merging of the rural municipalities on September 20, 2017, it was decided to sell a property at Saeveski 5 to a company called Tulihein. The unassuming piece of land is located a stone's throw from the rural municipality government building. The matter was noteworthy because the 3,100-square meter plot in the heart of the settlement was sold directly, not at auction.

Tulihein was owned by Mart Järvik's son Mait Järvik, with Järvik senior serving as member of the board. Therefore, Mart Järvik seemed to be sitting on both sides of the table.

The police opted for misdemeanor proceedings because the volume of the transaction was just €2,387.

"Had it been put up for auction, for there were other interested parties in the industrial area, it would likely have sold for more, but as you can see looking at the dates, they were in a hurry," Enno Alliksaar said.

Several Järvakandi entrepreneurs who wished to remain anonymous said they would surely have been interested in the plot had they known it was for sale.

The sale of the property was approved just six days after Mait Järvik's application to buy was received on September 14. Mart Järvik as the rural municipality mayor signed the sale order on the same day. By the time the transaction reached the notary two weeks later, the rural municipality was represented by city government member Neeme Mitt.

When Pealtnägija first asks Mart Järvik for a comment on the subject, the now Minister of Rural Affairs has a spokesperson suggest we talk to his son. Filming the office of Järvik junior's compay Tulihein that is also the venue for the local nightclub, we are greeted by the visibly irritated boss.

His short fuse has gotten Mait Järvik in trouble before. An incident from 2015 allegedly had a man hold the victim down while Järvik and another man beat him and later threatened him using a knife. Järvik was ordered to pay a fine of €500 and some damages to the victim. He was represented in court by recent adviser to Mart Järvik Urmas Arumäe.

The potential violation of procedural restrictions in the father-son real estate business was investigated by the central criminal police's corruption crime bureau.

The police did not question Mart Järvik

The police did not even question Mart Järvik because he did not participate in discussing the sale and making the corresponding decision.

The police file reveals there is no surviving record of the sitting to prove whether Järvik participated and to what extent. Because the decision was approved by other members of the rural municipality government, simply signing the order for the sale of land to a company to which Järvik had ties was not seen as reprehensible.

Misdemeanor proceedings were terminated on April 8. Incidentally, Järvik had become a candidate for the position of minister two days prior. His achievements as minister are by now a public matter. (Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik is at the heart of several scandals, including those of fish processor M.V.Wool and his former adviser Urmas Arumäe's conflict of interest in simultaneously working for the ministry and companies seeking to sue an agency in its administrative area – ed.)

Järvik refused to give Pealtnägija an interview on Monday.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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