Party finance watchdog quizzes Tallinn deputy mayor on €9,000 debt

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Vadim Belobrovtsev (Center). Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The body tasked with monitoring party finances has asked a Tallinn deputy mayor about a campaigning debt of €9,000, arising from the European parliamentary elections in May 2019.

The Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK) says that Vadim Belobrovtsev (Center), one of six deputy mayors in the city government, had as of September last year delayed payment on invoices issued by a consulting firm for 17 months. Depending on the details, this may constitute an illegal donation, the ERJK says.

The ERJK says that the length of time the debt had been in place attracted its attention.

"Such long-term debts are not common in economic activities, which is why the Commission had grounds to check whether there was a possible violation of the Political Parties Act, which consists in the use of creditor's money on favorable terms.

"Such long-term debts are not common in economic activities, hence why the commission had grounds to investigate whether there had been any potential violation of the Political Parties Act, which concerns conditions favorable to the use of creditor's money, a situation considered a donation by a legal person, under the understanding of the act, and thus prohibited," the ERJK said.

The ERJK said that in a response on January 30 last year, Belobrovtsev said he had agreed a payment schedule with the creditor, a firm called Complex Consult OÜ, which would see the final payment made in 2024.

The body wants a copy of this agreement, proof of payments made, the payment schedule and the calculation of any interest obligations.

Vadim Belobrovstev responded in turn that the debt was normal in the course of economic activity, as payment is made on the basis of agreed installments.

Belobrovtsev said: "The debt is constantly being repaid according to the agreed schedule. I received the service of Complex Consult OÜ, but I have paid and will continue to pay for the received service according to the schedule. Complex Consult OÜ has not waived my debt claim - the debt exists and will be paid according to the schedule The schedule is agreed in the contract."

Center has hit the headlines many times in the past regarding the issue of alleged prohibited donations. The party had a €250,000 fine cut down to about a tenth of that fee last year, while a recent court decision saw an ERJK precept issued for €1 million in illicit donations over a period of several years thrown out on a technicality.

Center has an absolute majority on the city government, while it is in office with Reform at the national level. Recent allegations of bribery and influence peddling involving the party and a Tallinn real estate development prompted Jüri Ratas' resignation as prime minister last month, though Center itself remains in office.

A bill which Center had issued last year to abolish the ERJK and nationalize its functions under the ambit of the National Audit Office (Riigikontroll) was ripped up with the arrival of the new Reform/Center coalition, having been filibustered at the end of last summer's Riigikogu session, by members of the Social Democratic Party (SDE) - a party which critics say has an undue influence on the ERJK itself.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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