Court quashes former government adviser prohibition on movement

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Kersti Kracht. Source: Siim Lõvi / ERR

A court has removed a prohibition on departure placed on a former government adviser, saying that both the prosecutor's office and the Internal Security Service (ISS) infringed on the defendant's rights in a case whose publicity led to the collapse of the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition and prompted the resignation of Jüri Ratas (Center) as prime minister.

Harju County Court lifted the restriction on former finance ministry adviser Kersti Kracht, saying there was nothing to suggest the defendant would abscond while any criminal proceedings were underway – the very reason the prohibition was placed in the first place.

The court said following its ruling Monday that: "There is nothing in any of the orders to suggest that Kracht would not intend to commit herself to staying in Estonia at least during the criminal proceedings, or that she would attempt to evade criminal proceedings while in Estonia."

The sale of her former place of residence and the fact that some family members live abroad does not affect this, the court said.

"In the court's view, no such circumstances exist at the present time," the court stated.

The court ruling cannot be appealed.

The same court had handed Kracht a prison sentence of up to two months on January 14, shortly after it became public that the ISS was investigating alleged corruption surrounding the Porto Franco real estate project in central Tallinn.

Kracht, who stood accused of influence peddling, was released a little over a month later, and was banned from leaving her place of residence by an ISS order placed on February 18.

The ISS reasoned that mortgage debts on the property were a risk factor in her potentially leaving the country. While Kracht's lawyers, Oliver Nääs and Sander Potisepp, appealed the ISS ruling with the Office of the Prosecutor General, this was rejected – on two separate occasions – prompting them to go to court.

The first-tier county court annulled rulings by the prosecutor's office from March 10 and April 22, as well as the original ISS ruling, acknowledging an infringement on Kracht's rights in the prohibition on departure.

Kracht's co-defendant in the case, businessman Hillar Teder, was released in early March while Center's secretary general Mihhail Korb was also implicated, as was the Center Party itself.

The development, which is still unfinished, needed an access road to be built on city of Tallinn land, and a proposed sweetener of €1 million to be given to the Center Party, to be concealed via the use of money laundering, would have obtained for Teder not only this but also favorable terms on a loan from state credit agency KredEx.

In the event the ISS intervened before any money actually changed hands, it is reported.

Two other unnamed businesspeople were also suspects in the case.

Jüri Ratas resigned in the small hours of January 13 after the scandal broke, leading to the collapse of the existing coalition. His party remained in office, however, following a deal with the Reform Party, while Ratas became Riigikogu speaker in March.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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