The Center Party has decided to return a donation of €50,000 because of unanswered questions.
"It is the position of the Center Party that financial affairs need to be transparent and clear. Center Party chairman Jüri Ratas has said regarding this particular case that if doubts remain, the donation needs to be returned. As there are doubts concerning the transparency of the donation, the Center Party has decided to return the sum in full," the party's secretary general Mihhail Korb explained.
ERR News wrote in April that the ruling Center Party received €108,705 in donations in the first quarter, with €50,000 donated by little-known businesswoman Jana-Helen Juhaste.
The business register lists Juhaste as a board member of Tarkoris OÜ and Telekomehitus OÜ. The former is a cleaning services provider and the latter installs telecommunications cables. Both companies are registered in Tartu.
Juhaste was not a member of the Center Party when she made the donation and belonged instead to the Conservative People's Party (EKRE), the business register reveals. When ERR's Russian portal Rus.err.ee asked her about it, the businesswoman said membership in EKRE was news to her. Juhaste left EKRE on April 14.
Mihhail Korb and head of Center's Tartu region Jaan Toots told ERR in April that they know nothing about Juhaste who donated €50,000 to the party in the first quarter.
Prime Minister, Center Party chairman Jüri Ratas said on the "Stuudios on peaminister" radio program on May 27 that should the background of the donation remain unclear, the party is willing to return the money.
"I believe that parties should have a control mechanism for private donations made on ideological grounds, which is the context in which we will make our decision. If questions remain unanswered, there is only one solution and the donation should be returned," the PM said.
Half an hour after Vikerraadio's interview with the PM, Center forwarded a statement in the name of Jana-Helen Juhaste where she confirms the donation was made from personal funds.
"I wanted to support the Center Party's worldview and have applied to join the party. I'm a modest person who does not want public attention, but I will cooperate fully with the authorities," Juhaste's statement read.
The Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK) filed a report of a criminal offense in connection with the donation in early June. Press representative for the Office of the Prosecutor General Kaarel Kallas told ERR the prosecution has received the report and has ten days to decide whether to launch proceedings.
Eesti Ekspress: Money from entrepreneur with business interests in Tallinn
Weekly Eesti Ekspress wrote on Saturday that its sources suggest money donated in Juhaste's name is from Tallinn entrepreneur Martin Künnap who has various business interests in the capital and is in the middle of a legal dispute worth millions with the Tallinn Urban Environment and Public Works Department.
The paper suggests Künnap sits on the boards of more than 20 companies active in everything from parcel delivery to the rental business, wines, perfumes and e-commerce.
Eesti Ekspress reports that the stakes are highest for Künnap in a real estate project involving the Tallinn Hippodrome (Tallinna Hipodroom) that a joint company belonging to Jaan Manitski, Mats Gabrielsson, Martin Künnap and his business partner Reigo Randmets called Hipodroomi 15 OÜ wants to turn into 100 apartments. The project is stuck behind a dispute with the city department.
Under the current hippodrome lies ground untouched by modern civilization. There are no power cables, water, sewage or storm water systems. Over the years, Manitski and Gabrielsson have tried to work with the city to create necessary infrastructure, while the partners have now decided to develop the first three systems themselves. Things are more complicated when it comes to the storm water system the construction of which in accordance with the city's requirements would cost €12 million. The developers are seeking a much cheaper system at €3 million where rainwater would be drained on the ground level.
Editor: Marcus Turovski