Rural affairs minister ex-adviser indicted in corruption case ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Urmas Arumäe stepped down as advisor to rural affairs minister Mart Järvik following revelations he acted in his capacity as a lawyer against an organization which falls under the ministry's remit.
Urmas Arumäe stepped down as advisor to rural affairs minister Mart Järvik following revelations he acted in his capacity as a lawyer against an organization which falls under the ministry's remit. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The North District Prosecutor's Office has forwarded to court materials concerning Urmas Arumäe, former adviser to the minister of rural affairs accused of a violation of a procedural restriction on a particularly large-scale basis.

According to the statement of charges, Urmas Arumäe in his capacity as an official advised the minister of rural affairs on legal matters while simultaneously serving as attorney for suspects in a criminal investigation where the party that had sustained damage was the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA), an institution in the area of administration of the Ministry of Rural Affairs.

The North District Prosecutor's Office launched a criminal investigation last November to determine whether the minister's adviser may have participated as an official in decision-making and substantive directing of decisions in relation to persons connected with him.

Specifically, Arumäe advised the minister on the granting of authorization to PRIA in the criminal proceeding while serving as attorney for suspects in the same criminal investigation. In said case, PRIA asked the Ministry of Rural Affairs for authorization to reclaim from clients of Arumäe €1.1 million of money paid out in investment support.

When becoming adviser, Arumäe resigned as attorney for the legal persons, but not for the physical persons, in said criminal case.

"The Prosecutor's Office finds that the withdrawal of Urmas Arumäe from the role of attorney was only seeming, since while he did discontinue representing legal persons, he continued serving as attorney for physical persons who had sat on the boards of the same companies," Special Prosecutor Leelet Kivioja said. "Besides, another attorney working at the same law office started to represent the legal persons. Through that, the legal persons continued to be connected with Urmas Arumäe."

According to the Prosecutor's Office, Arumäe must have been aware of the economic interest of his clients, meaning the wish of the people he was representing not to have to repay the support, which may have influenced his decisions as adviser to the minister of rural affairs.

Hence, Arumäe was aware of the risk of corruption as defined in the Anti-Corruption Act.

"Besides, an official must immediately inform their immediate superior about a procedural restriction, which the accused did not do in said case," Kivioja added.

Mati Ombler, head of the Office for the Investigation of Corruption Crimes at the Central Criminal Police, described raising the corruption-related awareness of ministerial advisers as important in reducing potential risks.

"The scope of the work of advisers may include being present when various decisions are made or proceedings conducted, or directing them," Ombler said. "In doing them, the persons performing public duties must base their actions on the Anti-Corruption Act, which obliges them to observe valid procedural restrictions and avoid a conflict of interest."

Arumäe has been charged with a violation of a procedural restriction on a particularly large-scale basis, meaning to an amount of more than €400,000.

The court has scheduled the preliminary hearing for June 11.

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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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