Portal: Prime minister to scrap controversial US lawyer deal

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Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform). Source: Jürgen Randmaa.

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) says that a controversial agreement between the Estonian state and a US lawyer and former FBI chief inked last year will be terminated, news agency Bloomberg reports.

Louis Freeh, former partner in Freeh, Sporkin and Sullivan, was hired in July to represent Estonia's interests in money laundering hearings in the U.S. arising from the Danske Bank case.

The deal sparked controversy because Freeh had in the past acted for Russian company Prevezon, one of the very entities which had allegedly laundered funds - around €6 million – through Danske, prompting claims of a conflict of interest.

Reiterating intentions expressed during coalition negotiations with Center last month, Kallas said: "The finance ministry is looking into that agreement on how to terminate it," Bloomberg reports.

This means Estonia would not get a cut of any potential damages arising from litigation against Danske, a Danish bank. The intention had also been to ameliorate reputational damage the Danske case had caused.

Around €200 billion in potentially illicit funds, mostly of Russian origin, are thought to have passed through Danske Estonia's portals in the period of 2007-2015.

In 2019, the Financial Supervisory Authority (Finantsinspektsioon) ordered the Tallinn branch of Danske be closed, which it duly was, later that year.

Kaja Kallas said that terminating the deal, valued at €3 million for a two-year period, will incur a fee, but that this was being looked into, while it was her clear desire to end the arrangement.

Freeh, 71, a former judge, was FBI chief 1993-2001, during much of the Clinton administration, with his tenure including overseeing the service at the time the 1993 siege of the premises of a religious cult in Waco, Texas, in which 86 people died, took place.

Freeh attended a Riigikogu joint  anti-corruption committee and state budget special committee hearing into the issue in September last year, also appearing live in-studio on ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) while in Estonia.

Finance minister at the time the Freeh deal was signed was Martin Helme (EKRE). The current finance minister is Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform).

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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