Paper: Two people criminal suspects in €50,000 Center Party donation

Center Party colors and logo.
Center Party colors and logo. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Two people are under criminal suspicion over an alleged illegal donation of €50,000 made to the coalition Center Party earlier this year.

The donation, made by Jana-Helen Juhaste early this year, attracted attention at the time, with speculation rife around how the individual had the means to make a donation of that size. 

A later statement said that Juhaste had made the donation in January to get back at the father of her child, who she said had not shouldered any responsibility for raising the child. 

Ratas: I will resign if donation's origins proven criminal 

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas (Center) said at the time that if the donation was proven to be of criminal origins, he would resign from office. 

Two people were declared suspects on July 2, according to daily Postimees, on the basis of the section of the Penal Code concerning forbidden party donations. 

The Office of the Prosecutor general says that evidence continues to be collected in the case. 

Donation made public on ERJK website 

Center returned the €50,000 donation, which was publicized on the Political Party Finances Surveillance Committee (ERJK) website, following a public outcry, though the prosecutor's office still went ahead in opening a criminal investigation into the matter on June 11. 

A little over a month beforehand, investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress had claimed the money had come from Juhaste's ex-partner, Martin Kunnap, a businessman. 

The Office of the Prosecutor General said in June that its doubts over the origins of the funds revolved around information it had about Juhaste's ability to sum up such an amount, necessitating an investigation, with leading State Prosecutor Taavi Pern saying that the investigation should ascertain whether Jana-Helen Juhaste knowingly donated someone else's money to the Center Party 

"If the investigation establishes that this was the case, the agency conducting the proceeding must also establish whether the party was informed about the real origin of the money and whether there are bases to suspect the party of a criminal offense - the acceptance of forbidden donation," Pern said. 

Donor: I share a worldview with Center 

Juhaste said in late May that she shared a worldview with Center, which she joined a few days later in early June, and wanted to support it financially for this reason. 

Both Juhaste and Kunnap stated in mid-June they were cooperating with the prosecutor's office, and that Kunnap had originally transferred the funds to Juhaste as a way to provide child support and to atone for perceived earlier neglect of his role in raising their child. 

Jüri Ratas, who is also chair of the Center Party, said the large number of questions over the money's origins, including those from the ERJK, was behind its decision to return the donation to Juhaste.

Center has been the focus of illicit donations in the past, including €40,387which it was ordered to return to the City of Tallinn in late 2019. The money had allegedly been used to fund programs broadcast on Russian-language TV channel PBK ahead of the local government elections of October 15 2017. Donations by a legal entity is prohibited.

The party's co-founder, Edgar Savisaar, was at the heart of a long-running, multi-faceted corruption case starting in 2018 and which made its way up all three tiers of the Estonian court system, county, circuit and Supreme Court. Charges were later dropped against Savisaar on the grounds of ill-health.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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