Trial of rural affairs minister's ex-adviser Urmas Arumäe starts

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The trial of Urmas Arumäe, a former adviser to the minister of rural affairs accused of a violation of a procedural restriction on a particularly large-scale basis, will start at the Tallinn-based Harju County Court on Tuesday.

According to the statement of charges by the North District Prosecutor's Office, Arumäe was in his capacity as an official advised the minister of rural affairs on legal matters while simultaneously serving as an attorney for suspects in a criminal investigation where the party that had sustained damage was the agricultural registers and information agency PRIA, an institution in the area of administration of the Ministry of Rural Affairs.

The North District Prosecutor's Office opened a criminal investigation in November 2019 to find out whether the adviser to the minister may have participated as an official in decision-making and substantive directing of decisions in relation to persons connected with him.

Specifically, Arumäe advised the minister on the granting of authorization to PRIA in the criminal proceeding while serving as the attorney for suspects in the same criminal investigation. In said case, PRIA asked the Ministry of Rural Affairs for authorization to reclaim from clients of Arumäe €1.1 million of money paid out in investment support. 

When becoming adviser, Arumäe resigned as an attorney for legal persons, but not for the physical persons, in said criminal case. 

"The prosecutor's office finds that the withdrawal of Urmas Arumäe from the role of attorney was only seeming, since while he did discontinue representing legal persons, he continued serving as attorney for physical persons who had sat on the boards of the same companies. Besides, another attorney working at the same law office started to represent the legal persons. Through that, the legal persons continued to be connected with Urmas Arumäe," specialized prosecutor Leelet Kivioja has previously told BNS.

According to the prosecutor's office, Arumäe must have been aware of the economic interest of his clients, meaning the wish of the people he was representing not to have to repay the support, which may have influenced his decisions as adviser to the minister of rural affairs. 

Hence, Arumäe was aware of the risk of corruption in the meaning of the Anti-Corruption Act. 

"Besides, an official must immediately inform their immediate superior about a procedural restriction, which the person accused did not do in said case," Kivioja has also said.

Arumäe has been charged with a violation of a procedural restriction on a particularly large-scale basis, meaning to an amount of more than €400,000.

The criminal case was investigated by the office for the investigation of corruption crimes at the Central Criminal Police and the investigation was led by the North District Prosecutor's Office.

Arumäe: Not guilty

On Tuesday, Arumäe did not admit he was guilty.

Arumäe's lawyer Aadu Luberg requested time until Thursday to discuss an alternative procedure. The court scheduled a new hearing on Thursday.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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