Tallinn Mayor: City government not culpable in Porto Franco case
Mayor of Tallinn Mihhail Kolvart (Center) has never discussed the Porto Franco development in Tallinn with Mihhail Korb (Center), nor has he met Hillar Teder. Both men are suspects in a corruption investigation that sparked the resignation early on Wednesday of Jüri Ratas (Center) as prime minister.
Kõlvart also says the city government is not under suspicion of wrong-doing, had not engaged in wrong-doing regarding Porto Franco, and was cooperating with the security services.
Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Kõlvart said that the city government is not susceptible to influence peddling or similar activities.
Kõlvart: Korb not been an influence on my decisions
Kõlvart said: "Mihhail Korb has not influenced me on the subject of Porto Franco, and he has not taken part in meetings of the city on that subject and has not discussed any details whatsoever with me."
"I think that this holds true also for other employees of the city government," he added.
Korb resigned as Center Party Secretary-General Tuesday afternoon after an Internal Security Service (ISS) investigation into state credit agency KredEx became public.
Korb is suspected of striking a deal with businessman and Center donor Hillar Teder which would have provided the Porto Franco development – whose majority shareholder is Teder's son Rauno – the go-ahead for constructing access routes to the city center project. Hillar Teder is also a suspect.
Mayor: Porto Franco procedures continued as standard
The scandal prompted the resignation of Jüri Ratas (Center) as prime minister in the early hours of Wednesday.
Mihhail Kõlvart, who was present at Jüri Ratas' resignation speech early Wednesday morning, said at the press conference later in the day that Porto Franco procedures did not proceed unusually quickly, nor is there evidence of conditions being favorable for the developer, adding that it went through the usual city bureaucracy and auditing.
"In other words, this is not the kind of process where the decision was made by the city government alone," Kolvart said, adding he expects the internal audit results next week. "What we see at present is that the actions of the city have been legitimate."
Kõlvart: We are cooperating with ISS
"I affirm that the city government has not made any decisions in return for support to the Center Party at [next autumn' local government elections... The city government does not engage in influence peddling," Kolvart said, adding that the rule of law and the interests of the capital as a whole were the guiding principles.
What Teder had agreed to in easing access to the development was standard practice, he went on.
"Personal rights of use and easements are, for instance, established for the purpose of building public roads and streets or for enabling access to properties belonging to third persons," he added.
Kõlvart said the ISS had searched his office and others in the Tallinn City Government building Tuesday and he had answered questions. The ISS had taken away digital and paper documents, he added, but the ISS told him no city officials were under suspicion, and that he and the city government were cooperating with the ISS, effectively as witnesses.
Rauno Teder had attended city government meetings at which deputy mayor(s) and other city officials had been present, Kõlvart added, saying that he had not personally met Hillar Teder.
Center has a majority in the city council chambers and so is in office alone, unlike at the national level, where it has 25 seats out of 101 at the Riigikogu. Discussions are ongoing on what form the next coalition might take following Jüri Ratas' resignation. Center had been the largest of the three coalition parties, and was joined by the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) and Isamaa, to make up a majority of 56 seats at the Riigikogu.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte