Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop's committee, which was tasked with investigating the decisions and actions of Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik (EKRE) in both the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA) and listeria scandals, identified several violations as well as the exceeding of powers in Järvik's work as minister.
Question #1 asked of the committee: What circumstances are related to PRIA's powers to represent the state in legal cases during the term of the contract concluded between the Ministry of Rural Affairs and Urmas Arumäe?
Committee's conclusion: In terms of powers, the committee focused on two incidents involving court cases where one party is PRIA, representing the state, and the other party is a business from whom PRIA is demanding the return of a support. A criminal investigation has occurred in both cases as well. One is the L. case (after the name of a defendant), in which several physical and legal persons are on trial. The other is the S. case (after the surname of the businesspeople and their representative), in which the suspects include several physical and legal persons. Urmas Arumäe was the defense lawyer in the S. case.
The committee could not understand why the minister did not provide his authorization in one case when he did provide it in another, similar case. The committee determined that some of the minister's claims about not providing his authorization were inconsistent with information submitted to the committee. Based on the materials, the committee was unable to draw a conclusion regarding whether Minister Mart Järvik did not provide his authorization to PRIA in one court case in the interests of Urmas Arumäe's clients.
Question #2 asked of the committee: Has — and, if so, when has — Urmas Arumäe communicated that his powers to represent the opposing party in PRIA-related cases have been suspended or terminated? During the term of the contract concluded between Urmas Arumäe and the Ministry of Rural Affairs, has Urmas Arumäe acted in favor of the interests of the opposing party in PRIA-related court cases?
Committee's conclusion: Based on the information submitted, it was determined that on May 14, 2019, Urmas Arumäe notified PRIA that he was backing out of representing/defending legal persons in the S. criminal case in order to avoid a conflict of interests, but nonetheless continued to represent S. and referred to himself as their defendant in correspondence. Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik received counsel from attorney Urmas Arumäe regarding the representation of the state in the PRIA proceeding in the S. criminal case at a time when Urmas Arumäe was also acting in S.' interests. It appears in submitted materials that Järvik was made aware of this fact no later than May 22, 2019.
Question #3 asked of the committee: How has information been exchanged between the minister of rural affairs and persons concerned as well as the public in connection with the presence of listeria bacteria at AS M:V.Wool?
Committee's conclusion: The committee reach the understanding that the activities of the minister of rural affairs, his adviser and attorney Urmas Arumäe are at odds with the position that the minister had either no or had insufficient information regarding the listeria bacteria issue at AS M.V.Wool. According to materials submitted to the committee as well as public materials, it can be seen that the minister had to find out about the connection with the listeria bacteria no later than June 12,2019. Correspondence materials also indicate that Maido Pajo, the minister's adviser, and Urmas Arumäe, the attorney advising the minister, have been involved in actively addressing the listeria bacteria problem under the minister's orders since mid-June.
Question #4 asked of the committee: Has the minister of rural affairs or the Ministry of Rural Affairs exceeded their powers this year in interfering with the operations of the Veterinary and Food Board (VTA) and PRIA and the conducting of oversight within their competences?
Committee's conclusion: The committee found that the minister of rural affairs and his adviser have attempted to interfere with the conducting of oversight at the VTA, with which they have exceeded their powers.
On the orders of Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre), Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop formed a four-person committee, which also included National Audit Office representative Airi Mikli, Office of the Chancellor of Justice representative Marje Kase as well as Margus Matt, director of the Legal Department of the Government Office.
The committee was tasked with submitting conclusions to the prime minister regarding the granting of authorizations to PRIA, the activity of the rural affairs minister's adviser, the movement of information regarding listeria as well as possible interference in the work of and conducting of oversight by the VTA and PRIA.
The full report can be found on the government website here (link in Estonian).
Editor: Aili Vahtla