Influence peddling trial involving Center Party starts November

A court has set a date of November 11 for the first hearing in a corruption case concerning allegations of influence peddling at a Tallinn real estate development which engulfed the Center Party, and led to the collapse of the Center/EKRE/Isamaa coalition early in 2021.

At a preliminary court session this week, the first-tier Harju County Court set the date of November 11 for the first hearing in the trials of businessman Hillar Teder, former Center Party secretary general Mihhail Korb, and the Center Party itself.

The so-called Porto Franco case, named after the central Tallinn real estate development which was the focal point of the allegations, has been divided into several sections – charges had already been brought against Teder and former finance ministry adviser Kersti Kracht, in April 2021.

Both Kracht and Teder did real jail time, of a few weeks each, but have not been convicted of anything.

The current trial starting in November is expected to last for around a year; the last hearing is scheduled for August 24 2023.

The Prosecutor's Office charged Teder, Korb and the Center Party, with influence peddling, namely that Korb allegedly used his position and closeness to Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart to obtain favorable terms for Teder in developing the Porto Franco site, close to the ferry and cruise terminal harbor.

Teder allegedly pledged one million euros as a donation to Center, in return.

Additionally, Tallinn's city government failed to follow standard practices and principles in setting prices when drawing up an easement fee for Porto Franco; initially set at €776,580, the fee was more than halved, to €301,000, following an alleged donation by Teder to Center of €120,000.

Like most political parties in Estonia, Center is an MTÜ.

Center's leader Jüri Ratas resigned as prime minister within hours of an Internal Security Service (ISS) investigation into the goings-on with Porto Franco became public, in mid-January 2021.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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