Former rural affairs minister Mart Järvik (EKRE), who was released from his post earlier this week, tried to influence the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA) in at least three different investigations over potential misuse of funds. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Centre) reportedly knew about some of the claims in late August, ERR reports, citing daily Postimees.
Järvik, together with his adviser Maido Pajo, had tried to influence the PRIA from withdrawing investigations into the Soosaar family in Pärnu County, as previously reported in the media, as well as two other cases connected with Mõisa OÜ – from which the PRIA aims to recover around half a million euros in support, and Kõpu Talu OÜ, also in pärnu County, daily Postimees reports.
Märt Riisenberg, Kehtna Mõisa OÜ board member, said he knew Järvik but had not approached him with concerns. However, Enn Rand, the owner of Maria talu (the operating name of Kõpu Talu), said his company had taken the PRIA to court, adding he had also talked to Järvik about his dispute with the authority.
Järvik faced conflict of interest allegations earlier in the month after then-ministry Secretary General Illar Lemetti said that Järvik had declined to authorize the PRIA to claim damages in an over-€1 million EU subsidy fraud case. Järvik's then-adviser, Urmas Arumäe, was acting as legal counsel for some of the defendants in the case, where the PRIA was the plaintiff, while he, Arumäe, was working part-time at the rural affairs ministry, prompting claims of conflict of interest.
While Arumäe stepped down from his role on Nov. 8, it was not enough to prevent a government-initiated inquiry into Järvik and his activities, led by Secretary of State Taimar Peterkop. Following the results of the inquiry, which said Järvik had overstepped his authority, the coalition forced Järvik to step down on Monday. Illar Lemetti was also relieved of his duties on the same day.
Neither the PRIA, Mart Järvik nor Maido Pajo would comment to Postimees on the matter, ERR reports, though Pajo admitted that a meeting was held to discuss the subject of PRIA subsidies.
The fact of this meeting and what was said there reached Illar Lemetti, who took the information to Taimar Peterkop at the end of August, asking him to inform Jüri Ratas of the incident.
Prime minister already knew about claims at end of August
As reported by ERR (link in Estonian) Taimar Peterkop confirmed that Lemetti had approached him in August and recounted attempts to intervene in EU subsidy abuse and PRIA's recovery aims.
At this point, Peterkop realized that there was something not quite right at the rural affairs ministry, adding that he had passed this information on to Jüri Ratas.
"I consulted with the people in my house, with the prime minister, the Ministry of Justice's sphere of government, and as a result, it ended up at the prosecutor's office," said Peterkop.
Peterkop also said that while Lemetti had acted in accordance with his conscience, tactically speaking, Järvik could have gone to the prime minister before details emerged which highlighted to the media Järvik's actions.
"But by and large, I understand why he (i.e. Järvik-ed.) acted as he did," said Peterkop.
Järvik said earlier in November that he had received written confirmation from justice minister Raivo Aeg in early October saying that the PRIA could represent the state in court without his official authorization, in response to the Arumäe conflict of interest claims.
Editor: Andrew Whyte