Helme did not attend special committee session due to lack of quorum
Minister of Finance Martin Helme (EKRE) did not attend Monday's extraordinary session of the Riigikogu's budgetary and anti-corruption select committees, stating a lack of meeting quorum. Helme was supposed to report on the deal signed with United States law firm Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan.
Helme posted on social media on Monday: "Allegations are thrown around as if I ignored the committee's invite and am withholding information. Both claims are obviously misleading to the public. As far as I am aware, no committee session will be taking place today as there is no quorum present."
Helme said since there was no quorum, the session can not be considered a Riigikogu committee session and thus it does not matter whether it was held in an official committee room or in the cafe of the Riigikogu building.
He noted: "Since there is no session today, I will stick with my previous plans and will not be in Tallinn today."
The finance minister explained that it is not true that he is withholding critical information and documents from the committees. "Meaning, they (documents - ed.) are not sent out by e-mail for everyone to see, but made available in secured rooms where the documents are printed and numbered."
As reported by ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" on Monday, the committees still want to see all the details of the contract signed with former FBI director Louis Freeh, hired to provide legal services to Estonia in relation to money laundering investigations.
Jürgen Ligi (Reform) said: "As far as we are aware, the choice to hire a law firm was made randomly. The decision was not made by the state. It was made by politicians and that is our complaint. If Martin Helme seriously filtered and screened, then he has filtered out the one firm that he was told not to hire."
Members of the special committees were given a memo by the Chancellery of the Riigikogu, in which stood an assessment made by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on the background of three law firms chosen by the Ministry of Finance. The documents are classified and members of the committee present did not comment on them much.
Katri Raik (SDE), chair of the parliamentary anti-corruption select committee, told "Aktuaalne kaamera": "There are even more questions and problems now. There are serious notices, serious discussions, and serious assessments in those documents."
She added that another session is planned for this week where Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) is also expected to attend.
Raik said: "It is a question of Estonia's reputation, our security and no minister can act independently as some duke. /.../ Let it be an overall lesson on how we handle things, how transparent we are and how we are all set out for one common goal. Right now, there are questions about what the law firm is actually supposed to do and why they were paid €3 million of taxpayer money - yours and mine."
On July 3, ERR News wrote that finance minister Martin Helme had entered into an agreement with U.S. law firm Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan LLP to provide legal services to the Estonian state in international money laundering investigations.
Following the publication of an investigative piece in daily Eesti Päevaleht on July 28, the deal agreed in early-July between finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) and law firm Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan, has come under increased scrutiny, principally over senior partner Louis Freeh's alleged acting on behalf of a Russian client facing money laundering charges and several million of whose funds had passed through the now-defunct Tallinn branch of Danske Bank. Freeh, who was FBI director under the Bill Clinton administration, denies having worked for the Russian client.
On Monday, Louis Freeh, who had been senior partner at Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan, announced he has left the firm, but will remain on at full capacity to honor the contract signed with the Estonian state to represent it in money laundering investigations.
Download the ERR News app for Android and iOS now and never miss an update!
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste