Constructing three artificial islands close to Tallinn, some of which would be used to house off-shore casinos if the project went ahead, would cost over €400 million, the development's driver, former Center MP Märt Sults, says, revising an original estimate upwards by as much as €200 million.
The Estonian state has so far hindered progress on the project, however, sults, who is also principal of Tallinn Art School (Tallinna Kunstikool), says, noting that the potential cost of the project has nearly doubled since it was begun.
Concerns about background checks across nearly 70 European companies who have expressed interest in the project are to blame, Sults said, in the wake of money laundering scandals which have hit Estonia in recent years.
"The construction value of the islands at the time the contract was signed was between €200 and 230 million," Sults told ERR.
"This plus the construction of auxiliary and service buildings, and laundries and dormitories, and the acquisition of all other things as well as land [would push the figure up to €400 million]," he went on.
The islands, which would be located close to the Kopli peninsula, an important wildlife reserve, would host a conference center, commercial buildings and hotels, as well as casinos, Sults said.
"One island, 'Oid' would be a conference island with 10,000 seats. 'Ärisaar' would have two or three casinos, and business centers and hotels. The third island would have Ferris wheels, children's playgrounds and liberal arts areas," he added.
The project's detailed plan dates back 12 years, but was filed with Tallinn authorities two years ago and was followed by a deal signed with a pan-European consortium of 67 companies, but this fell through due to suspicions of money laundering, sults went on, necessitating an investigation of all 67 companies, which has so far reached around company number 47, he said.
The process will take another year, Sults said, and is hampering the project.
Keen potential backers in Estonia have also emerged, sults said, declining to name them, noting that 10 years ago people had called him crazy for coming up with the artificial islands' idea.
The project would open up Estonia's economy and launch a new sector in Estonia, sults also claimed, adding he was mystified why the state had not been more supportive of his idea.
Editor: Andrew Whyte