Former ministry adviser: I will testify on Porto Franco only in court

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Kersti Kracht was released from custody on February 16. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Former finance ministry adviser Kersti Kracht says she will not testify to the prosecutor's office regarding charges relating to the real estate development scandal which brought down Jüri Ratas' (Center) government last month. Kracht, who was released from detention earlier this week, said she would testify in court if it came to that.

When contacted by ERR Thursday, Kracht said: "I can't talk about [the charges], as I haven't testified to the prosecutor's office or even to the Internal Security Service. I'm not going to testify [to them]. I'll testify in court."

Kracht was detained on suspicion of influence peddling in relation to the Porto Franco development in Tallinn in January, and was released Tuesday, as was businessman Hillar Teder, also implicated in the case and a major Center Party donor.

Jüri Ratas' resignation as prime minister in the small hours of January 13 followed the ISS investigation into the Porto Franco dealings being made public, on January 12.

Kracht, who worked as an adviser to then-finance minister Martin Helme (EKRE) was in defiant mode when asked is she had committed the crimes she had been charges with.

"What, are you kidding?" she responded to ERR journalist Huko Aaspõllu.

"Are you stupid? Do you think that I am an idiot? I have said everywhere that I won't plead guilty and am not a suspect. These claims have no basis. Then you ask me if I will plead guilty? Huko Aaspõllu, do you think that I am a complete idiot? This is ERR. ERR are asking this question or what? What, are you making some sort of comedy show?" she continued.

"Listen to and hear what I am saying. What I have said. You have listened to and seen what I have said. You know you are asking stupid questions … I will say one thing to you. Listen. You can put this to ERR too. The things in life which anger me most are stupid questions and stupid people. Everything else I can tolerate. Don't ask me these stupid questions. There it is," she went on.

"Nothing has happened. Nothing whatsoever… no transations took place at all. Not ever. This is a fabrication … ask the prosecutor's office why they fabricate criminal cases. Ask them. I don't know. I am not a fabricator. No transactions too place. That's all. I don't have any more time, I have to go. Thankyou."

In line with Estonian procedure, the investigation is being directed by the prosecutor's office, which suspects Kracht helped secure financially favorable decisions for the development, whose majority owner is Rauno Teder, son of Hillar.

Circuit court overruled county court in releasing Kracht, Teder

An appeal by Kracht's lawyers at the second-tier circuit court saw Kracht released Tuesday, the same day as Hillar Teder was also freed (Teder was placed under electronic surveillance), overruling a January 14 decision by the first-tier Harju County Court to place both individuals in custody for up to two months.

The allegations also involve the Center Party and the party's former secretary general, Mihhail Korb.

The investigation by the ISS stopped any actual bribe transactions before they could have taken place, it is reported.

Additionally, Teder and Kracht allegedly agreed that the latter, as adviser to the minister of finance, would contribute towards a favorable decision for Teder in terms of a large loan sought for the Porto Franco real estate development through crisis aid measures from the state-run Kredex foundation.

Teder and Kracht are also suspected of concluding a money laundering agreement to conceal any bribe transactions.

Two other unnamed businesspeople are also suspects in the case.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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