Court closes proceedings for Center Party €50,000 prohibited donation case

Jana-Helen Juhaste on videolink on November 15, 2021.
Jana-Helen Juhaste on videolink on November 15, 2021. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

The Harju County Court closed proceedings on Monday against Jana-Helen Juhaste and her former partner Martin Kunnap, who were accused of making a prohibited donation of €50,000 to the Center Party, and endorsed an agreement on punishment agreed between the prosecution and co-defendant Catalina Porro.

The court ordered Kunnap to perform 200 hours of community service and make a donation of €15,000 to the Tallinn Children's Hospital Support Fund and Juhaste to make a donation of €5,000 to the Children's Fund of Tartu University Hospital.

By the court's order, the €50,000 seized as a prohibited donation will be transferred into public revenues.

The court also upheld a deal entered into by Catalina Porro, fellow accused of the former in the case, with the prosecutor's office, according to which the court sentenced her to a fine of €2,500, minus the two days spent by her in pre-trial detention, and ordered that this fine be conditional with one-year probation.

In addition, €20,000 will be confiscated from Porro and given to the state. Porro must pay the sums within a year.

Chief State Prosecutor Taavi Pern told BNS the court found influence-peddling took place exactly as stated in the indictment

"Today's court orders and the guilty verdict also show that if the parties to the proceedings are willing to cooperate and contribute to the identification of the persons involved in the crime, the state can influence them in the case of second-degree crimes differently than in situations where they do not," Pern said.

"Corruption crimes undermine both fair competition and the credibility of the public sector. It is therefore important to prevent these acts from being committed and to establish what has taken place as soon as possible. It is positive when the perpetrators understand and dare to admit their mistake, and the notion increasingly takes root in society that trying to succeed dishonestly can result in the opposite consequences, as well as in punishment," the state prosecutor added.

In the trial that began at the Tallinn-based Harju County Court on November 4, Pern submitted an application in which he found the case could be terminated on the grounds of expediency for Juhaste and Kunnap. 

In his opening speech, Kunnap's lawyer Oliver Naas said that his client was urged by Porro to donate money to the Center Party for personal reasons.

Kunnap and Porro were accused of entering into an agreement on influence peddling.

According to the charges, Kunnap gave Porro €20,000 and the Center Party €50,000 in return for a promise concerning the use of alleged influence by Porro to achieve a favorable decision concerning building rights for real estate developments of companies connected with Kunnap.

Even though, according to the charge sheet, the claims of Porro concerning her influence were unsubstantiated and, consequently, the desired result was not achieved as a result of influence peddling, according to the prosecutor's office this was nevertheless a situation where an attempt was made to facilitate business by unacceptable means. 

In addition, Kunnap and Juhaste were accused of making a forbidden donation.

According to the charges, Kunnap in January 2020 donated €50,000 to the nonprofit MTÜ Eesti Keskerakond, the legal entity of the Center Party, but conducted the transfer via Juhaste to conceal his connection with the donation.

Ats Kübarsepp, head of the office for the investigation of corruption crimes at the Central Criminal Police, said, commenting on the charges in May, that each agreement on providing someone with an unlawful advantage harms the whole society.

"We are working to keep the economic environment fair and if necessary, we intervene by means of criminal proceedings. In this criminal proceeding, the police identified the actual owner of the donated money and examined whether the party was aware of the origin of the money and the purpose of the donation," Kubarsepp said.

He said the police also checked the reliability of the statements and public comments made by the parties connected with the donation.

During the investigation, it was established that the public explanations of the person who made the donation and the actual owner of the money were misleading and that this was an illegal donation, which the parties involved had to understand as well, the officer added.

Under law, the making of a forbidden donation is punishable with a pecuniary punishment. Influence peddling is punishable with a pecuniary punishment or up to three years' imprisonment.


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Editor: Helen Wright

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