Former prime minister Mart Laar said he would never refute claims made by former MEP Indrek Tarand that former Ambassador to the Russian Federation Mart Helme's (EKRE) career in the foreign ministry ended because he was caught by an internal audit for illegitimate spending.
ERR News wrote on Wednesday that former Ministry of Foreign Affairs chancellor Indrek Tarand wrote in daily Eesti Ekspress (link in Estonian) that current Minister of the Interior Mart Helme's (EKRE) career in the foreign ministry ended because he was caught by an internal audit in 2001 for the illegitimate spending of 500,000 kroons (€31,955.82).
Current Minister of the Interior Mart Helme responded by saying nothing in the story is true and there were no claims made against him in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for illegitimate spending.
Mart Laar, who was prime minister of Estonia at the time, was asked if illegitimate spending was the reason why Mart Helme did not continue as ambassador to the Russian Federation.
Laar said: "I think Indrek (Tarand - ed.) is the on who knows most about it. I would not refute his story because the prime minister did not deal with it personally, I can say that much. It was inevitably a decision for the chancellor at the ministry and Indrek holds most of the information because he was responsible.
"There had to be something. Indrek is not someone who just speaks, I think. When Indrek says something, there is something to it."
Laar said criminal proceedings were possibly not initiated because Helme returned the illicitly spent 500,000 Estonian kroons. "Of course, things would have gone differently if [Helme] had not returned anything. I was not involved specifically, I do not have any details on the return, but I am sure Indrek knows more."
Tarand also noted in his story that somewhat unexpectedly, former foreign minister and later president, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, stood up in Helme's defense and said the position of ambassador to Moscow was sensitive, which is why it is not reasonable to jeopardize Estonian-Russian relations, andit was this which convinced Mart Laar and Lennart Meri, prime minister and president in 2001, respectively.
ERR tried contacting Ilves but no response has yet been received.
Mart Laar was prime minister in 1992-1994 and 1999-2002. Ilves was foreign minister in 1996-1998 and 1999-2002.
Indrek Tarand, a former MEP, was a chancellor at the foreign ministry in 1994-2002. Mart Helme was assigned as Ambassador to the Russian Federation in 1995 by President Lennart Meri. He held the position until 1999, after which he returned to Estonia to work in the foreign ministry as deputy chancellor.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste