Court ruling on Center fine appealed by all parties to the case

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Center Party office. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

A court decision annulling a precept issued by the body responsible for party finances against the Center The party has been appealed by all three parties to the case, including the Center itself, albeit for different reasons.

The Political Party Funding Supervision Committee (ERJK) issued the precept in respect of over € 1 million in alleged illegal donations in 2019, the year of two elections - to the Riigikogu and the European Parliament.

Not only has the ERJK appealed the decision, but the Center Party, along with PR firm Midfield OÜ has also done so,

Anneli Vilu, spokesperson for the first-tier Tallinn Administrative and second-tier Tallinn Circuit Court (the former of these two overruled the precept on a technicality in late January - ed.) told ERR that the ERJK's lawyers appealed the decision.

At the same time, the Center's lawyers appealed it too, in this case because they wanted the complaint against the party to be completely lifted. The party's legal counsel is also seeking costs of € 57,442.20, ERR reports.

Meanwhile Midfield's lawyers have taken a third way, requesting the Center's appeal to be dismissed and the party bear legal costs, plus also see a precept reset, though to what amount has not been reported yet.

The court's spokesperson said that all appeals had been received by March 1, the deadline required, although the second-tier circuit court, which will hear the appeal, has not ruled on the matter.

In February 2019, the ERJK hit the Center with a fine of € 1.02 million in respect of alleged illegal donations from Midfield, which had done work for the Center on political campaigning.

Midfield OÜ is owned by the Center's former campaign chief Paavo Pettai.

On January 29, the administrative court ruled that the ERJK had not kept adequate records and that only € 7.7000 had not been accounted for.

ERJK chair Liisa Oviir, a former Social Democratic Party (SDE) government minister, says this ruling is disproportionate.

Center as noted wants all complaints against the party deleted.

Timeline of Midfield case

The ERJK issued a precept to the Center in April 2019, ordering it to return a forbidden donation, on the grounds of incorrect procedure, including a lack of invoicing, which in effect stated that Midfield OÜ had conducted the Center's election campaigns from 2009-2015 , without invoicing or paying attention to other norms.

The sum ordered to be returned came to € 1 million, in the ERJK's precept.

The party appealed this and won, with the Tallinn Administrative Court finding that, while the Center Party's complaints were not justified deficiencies pertaining to the evidence were too extensive, prompting the annulment of the ERJK precept.

The court also left unchanged an interim injunction granted to the Center on May 28, 2019, concerning the ERJK precept.

The Center's lawyers, Toomas Vaher and Mailis Meier, said the court has drawn attention to significant deficiencies in the injunction by ERJK when it comes to establishing the actual factual circumstances. 

The lawyers said, in a joint statement that: "Neither the committee nor the experts on whose opinion the committee based itself subjected to a sufficiently critical analysis the expenses that Midfield allegedly incurred in connection with servicing the Center Party and whether these were correctly taken into account in the making of the injunction.

"The injunction made to the party, which the court annulled, is based on profit allegedly not earned, which Midfield as the provider of the service and ERJK considered to be too small. At the same time, the problem remains unsolved to this day that the committee has not identified what additional service has been provided by Midfield - in a situation where all the invoices submitted by Midfield and the works ordered by the Center Party have been paid to the full extent over the years, "the statement went on.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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