House belonging to ministry adviser charged with corruption to be auctioned
A sizeable property belonging to a former ministry adviser at the heart of the corruption scandal which brought down Jüri Ratas' government in January is being sold at auction.
Bailiffs have listed the house, belonging to former finance ministry adviser Kersti Kracht, a 270-square-meter building, on 0.5 hectares of land, in Kloogaranna, Lääne-Harju municipality, approximately 40 kilometers west of Tallinn, for auction, with a starting price of €569,000.
The most expensive property listed on a popular real estate portal for Lääne-Harju municipality at the time of writing is valued at around €3.5 million, with several other listings exceeding the €1 million-mark.
The Internal Security Service (ISS) detained Kracht and businessman Hillar Teder on January 12, along with several other individuals, as suspects in alleged corruption crimes relating to the Porto Franco real estate development in Tallinn
Center Party Secretary General Mihhail Korb was also named as a suspect, as was the Center Party itself.
Kracht was released on February 16 after a little over a month in prison. Teder was released nearly three weeks later.
Kracht was charged with influence peddling in smoothing the way for preferential treatment in having permission granted for access routes to the Porto Franco complex, a part-finished residential/retail/business/leisure complex close to Tallinn's ferry harbor, as well as for obtaining a loan from state credit agency KredEx. In the event the ISS investigation interrupted any potential money changing hands. Hillar Teder is a major Center Party donor; his son Rauno is majority shareholder in Porto Franco.
Jüri Ratas resigned less then 24 hours after the ISS investigation was made public, triggering the collapse of the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition.
Kersti Kracht had worked as an adviser to Martin Helme (EKRE), finance minister under the previous administration. She also allegedly made the acquaintance of a U.S. lawyer and former FBI chief, Louis Freeh, who Helme had hired in a controversial deal to represent Estonia in U.S. money laundering hearings in the wake of the Dankse Bank scandal. This deal has since been terminated by the incoming Reform/Center coalition.
Under the terms of her release, Kracht may not be away from home for more than three days, amid fears she might leave the country. She has consistently maintained her innocence, repeatedly saying an ERR journalist who quizzed her on that matter was asking stupid questions.
Kracht remarked on her release her pleasure at having met so many nice people working on the prison service and related staff, given the paltry sums of money she says they earn.
The two-storey home up for sale is registered as belonging to a company called Kermon Hekta OÜ, and is located on Adruvahi 9 (not viewable on Google Street View) in the village of Kloogaranna.
The auction is aimed at meeting creditor demands on the property, which will be lifted on it if and when it is sold.
Those interested in bidding (link in Estonian) will need to put up a deposit of €10,000 to buy-in.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte