Parliamentary select committees meeting to discuss Helme US law firm deal

Jürgen Ligi (Reform), chair of the state budget control select committee.
Jürgen Ligi (Reform), chair of the state budget control select committee. Source: ERR

Two Riigikogu select committees are holding an extraordinary joint meeting on Monday to discuss a controversial agreement between Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) and U.S. law firm Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan.

The deal, whose details have not been made public was signed a month ago and announced at a press conference which featured senior partner Louis Freeh, a former FBI chief.

Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan are due to act on behalf of Estonia under the two-year, €3-million contract in respect of money laundering investigation.

Criticism largely revolves around claims the firm previously represented a Russian businessman involved in money laundering who had chaneled millions of euros in potentially illicit funds via the now-defunct Tallinn branch of Danske Bank, scene of a major money laundering scandal last year, and the conflict of interest that would bring.

The Riigikogu's state budget control select committee and anti-corruption select committee are holding the meeting, on an extraordinary basis given parliament is on its summer recess.

Chair of the state budget control select committee Jürgen Ligi (Reform) said both bodies want Helme to show them a copy of the Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan contract, and want to be filled in on its circumstances and goals.

"Many questions have piled up regarding that contract, and the public comments by Martin Helme concerning them have been so provocative that the Riigikogu can no longer wait until regular sessions, but must summon the minister extraordinarily," Ligi said.

"It is this minister's habit of being very rhetorical, but not substantive, and ignoring the practices of good governance and competent advice that requires intervention by the select committees," he went on.

Parliamentary anti-corruption select committee chair Katri Raik (SDE). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Reform Party leader Kaja Kallas had noted that since the agreement was funded by taxpayer's money, that made it of public interest.

Chair of the parliamentary anti-corruption select committee Katri Raik (SDE) said transparency was an integral part of good policy making. 

"Since the actions of the minister of finance have not been transparent, the select committees are compelled to submit the contract concluded by him and related circumstances to a scrutiny," Raik said.

The extraordinary joint sitting of the two committees started at 2 p.m. on Monday.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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