Rural affairs ministry official reports suspected corruption to prosecutor

Illar Lemetti.
Illar Lemetti. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Secretary General of the Ministry of Rural Affairs Illar Lemetti told Prime Minister Jüri Ratas in a letter that he has reported suspected corruption to the prosecutor's office and had given them a testimony. He also said that if he should be dismissed from his position, he will contest the decision in court.

"I have also been reproached for not referring my potential suspicions to the prosecutor's office," Lemetti said in the letter to the prime minister. "Those who are making these reproaches can rest confident that the documents which deserve to be referred to the prosecutor's office have been referred there too. At the beginning of September of this year, I notified the prosecutor's office about a potential corruption case and in November I went to the corruption crimes office of the Central Criminal Police of the Police and Border Guard Board to give testimony."

The North District Prosecutor's Office confirmed to ETV's Aktuaalne kaamera (AK) that it has communicated with Lemetti.

"The prosecutor's office cannot disclose the precise content of the information relayed by Illar Lemetti as that may undermine the conduct of a criminal proceeding. We can affirm that we have communicated with him. In the framework of the criminal proceeding that has been opened, witnesses have been questioned and evidence in the form of documents is being worked through. The further course of proceedings will be decided about after that. Nobody has been declared suspect in a criminal offense at this point," the spokespeople said.

The head of the corruption crimes office of the Central Criminal Police Mati Ombler confirmed to AK that Lemetti has given testimony.

"I can affirm that in the framework of the criminal case the secretary general of the ministry has been questioned as a witness to check the actions of an adviser to the Ministry of Rural Affairs. In the interests of the investigation nothing more specific can be added," Ombler said.

Lemetti believes Minister of Rural Affairs Mart Järvik wants to sack him for notifying authorities about corruption.

Lemetti also wrote in the letter to the prime minister that none of the reasons cited by the minister when it comes to absence of cooperation between the minister and the ministry's secretary general can be taken seriously. Should he be dismissed, he will contest the decision in a court of law. 

Lemetti said that Järvik has on two occasions referred to him materials for the expression of opinion concerning his own dismissal on the grounds of non-functioning cooperation.

Lemetti added to the letter to the prime minister a copy of his exchange of e-mails with the minister in which he proposes that the two sit down together and talk things out. 

The secretary general said that where a narrative has been attempted to be presented to the public suggesting that he and the minister differ on policy issues, this is by no means true. 

"Honorable prime minister, why am I writing all this? It appears from the materials of the committee of the state secretary what the minister of rural affairs and his advisers have been engaging in in the Ministry of Rural Affairs during half a year and you apparently also know that some very important circumstances are yet to become known to the public. Everything that happened just cannot remain between the walls of the Ministry of Rural Affairs. In the Riigikogu anti-corruption committee I was asked whether I have behaved in accordance with good practice, so to speak. Yes, I have, because telling the truth and revealing the truth has always been good practice," Lemetti said.

Lemetti is at the center of a controversy which broke earlier in November surrounding Järvik's actions in hiring an advisor.

Lemetti said that the adviser, Urmas Arumäe, had made recommendations to Järvik about how to act in a mandate on a case involving the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA), which comes under the rural affairs ministry's remit.

Järvik had previously said that the reverse was the case. That Arumäe, a lawyer, was working for the rural affairs ministry while at the same time representing several defendants in a €1 million EU subsidy fraud case against PRIA prompted claims of conflict of interest.

Järvik had declined to sign a mandate which would have allowed PRIA to claim damages in the case; he later said that his authorization was not needed, providing a copy of a letter from justice minister Raivo Aeg (Isamaa) to back up his claims.

Järvik suggested Lemetti be released from service, but did not initially formally pursue the matter.

A commission of inquiry, known as the Peterkop commission, ordered by Ratas (Centre) to investigate Järvik's actions, submitted its findings on Thursday and said the minister had exceeded his powers.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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