The Riigikogu's anti-corruption select committee found MP Heiki Kranich's (Reform) declarations of interest have been submitted correctly, Baltic News Service reports, after Kranich appeared before the committee to answer questions about his liabilities and assets.
The committee also found, however, that changes to the law in 2013 – which meant state company board members need not file declarations of interest – should be made.
Kranich ceased to head up state lottery Eesti Loto in 2018, becoming an MP at the March 2019 general election (he had also served previous terms in the Riigikogu, prior to being Eesti Loto CEO).
"We heard Kranich's clarification, and found that his current declarations are correct," said committee chair Katri Raik (SDE).
"Kranich said that his assets, and those of his next-of-kin cover the liabilities incurred," Raik added.
Kranich had been subject of scrutiny after a report by business daily Äripäev claimed last week a conflict of interest in his obtaining a €280,000 loan from businessman Koit Uus , following Eesti Loto becoming primary tenant at an office development on Hallivanamehe Street in Tallinn, while Kranich still headed up the state company. Koit Uus was involved with EKE Invest, developer of the Hallivanamehe Street property.
The loan was linked to reported financial difficulties Kranich had been experiencing. Kranich denied any wrongdoing in an ERR interview, and said he would cooperate with any Riigikogu committee investigation.
Katri Raik added it was the select committee's duty to assess whether corruption risks are present or not, BNS reports, quoting the Riigikogu's press department.
Law change meant declarations not complete
At the same time, Raik noted that the law as it currently stands stood in the way of getting the full picture of Kranich's declarations.
Raik said it had not been possible for the select committee to familiarize itself with the declarations filed by Kranich while he was Eesti Loto CEO (2009-2018), as until 2013, the law had not obliged supervisory board and management board members at state-owned companies to file their declarations of interests.
Additionally, the declaration the MP filed in 2013 has, in line with the law, been destroyed. Current law obliges declarations be kept for a five-year period.
The Riigikogu anti-corruption committee is tasked with ensuring anti-corruption legislation is actually adhered to, according to BNS.
The committee discusses and assesses potential corruption incidents involving officials specified by the law, supervises compliance with restrictions on MPs' activities, and verifies the declarations of interests.
Raik said that board members at state companies should file declarations of interests, as had been the case before 2013, adding that the expiry limit after which declarations could be deleted was too short.
"In the view of the members of the committee, the time period for the preservation of the declarations is too short," Raik said, according to BNS.
Raik added that the committee is to lodge inquiry into whether supervisory and other board members at state companies – which fall under the finance ministry's remit – have in fact filed declarations of interest after 2013, notwithstanding the law change.
Committee deputy chair: More transparency needed on Eesti Loto tenancy agreement
Marek Jürgenson (Center), deputy chair of the anti-corruption select committee, also said the committee found light needed to be shed on the circumstances of the tenancy agreement Eesti Loto entered when relocating to the Hallivanamehe property.
"In this regard, the committee is waiting for the prosecutor's office decision on whether the it will open proceedings concerning Heiki Kranich," Kranich said, adding that the committee would not interfere with the office's work.
The prosecutor's office opened an investigation into Kranich's affairs following the Äripäev piece.
Spokesperson for the prosecutor's office Olja Kivistik told ERR last Tuesday that the office had not yet decided on whether to initiate criminal proceedings.
Kranich also said he was considering legal action against Äripäev.
Editor: Andrew Whyte