Education ministry taking former minister Mailis Reps to court
The education ministry has filed a civil suit against its former minister, Mailis Reps, claiming damages in respect of alleged misuse of the public purse, news portal Delfi reports. Reps resigned as minister late last year after the allegations became public.
Lawyer Marko Kairjak, acting for the ministry, told Delfi (link in Estonian) that: "I can confirm that I have filed a civil action against Mailis Reps relating to a criminal case, on behalf of the education ministry. The civil action is based on charges against Mailis Reps and the acts described therein."
"Since the facts of the civil action relate to a pre-trial investigation, the disclosure of the exact facts is up to the public prosecutor's office, and as the plaintiff's representative cannot themselves make public the facts, I cannot comment further," Kairjak continued.
Reps resigned last November in the midst of an expenses scandal which first came to light following an expose by evening paper Õhtuleht.
The Õhtuleht piece said Reps had misused the ministry vehicle over an extended period of time, in ferrying her children to and from school, and, much further afield, taking it on a family holiday to Croatia.
The confidential nature of the case as outlined by Marko Jairjak means that the size of damages the ministry is seeking is not known; ministry funds allegedly used on a birthday party at a top Tallinn restaurant could range from several hundred, to thousands of euros, Delfi reports.
A criminal case was filed in February, but has not yet reached court, while Reps has declined to comment on the issue to the media since her resignation.
In addition to the use of the ministry car, and the birthday party, at the Mons Repos restaurant, as early as 2019 Reps had allegedly taken home a Jura coffee machine belonging to the ministry.
The brand name often appears in the Estonian-language media, not least since in Estonian, "Jura" is a mild obscenity.
Other alleged misuses of public funds included two rooms booked at the three-star Pallas hotel in central Tartu, ahead of the inaugural WRC Rally Estonia in July 2020, though, Delfi reports, this bill Reps footed herself, albeit after publication of the Õhtuleht piece.
Sources also told Õhtuleht that plane tickets for Reps' children had also been purchased using ministry funds, Delfi says. Questions also arose at the time as to the ethics of dragging Reps' children – she has six – into the scandal.
The original Delfi piece (in Estonian) is here.
Mailis Reps served as education minister three times, 2002 to 2003, 2005 to 2007 and 2016 to 2020.
She returned to the Riigikogu after resigning.
Reps was also chief negotiator for the Center Party during coalition talks with the Reform Party, ahead of the new coalition being sworn in in late January this year.
Marko Kairjak, representing the Ministry of Education and Research, is a partner of law firm Ellex Raidla.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte