Keeping business and politics separate is a challenge in a small town with a small pool of active people, Center Party MP Martin Repinski says, in the context of the detention under suspicion of corruption of the Mayor of Kohtla Järve, and close to a dozen of his associates.
Repinski, a former mayor of nearby Jõhvi, Ida-Viru County and formerly in office with the current Kohtla-Järve Mayor, Nikolai Ossipenko, said Wednesday that: "Every respectable entrepreneur could obtain power in the local government if he or she wanted to. Nikolai Ossipenko's companies, as things stood when I was familiar with the figures, employed about 600 people. That pulls quite a lot of weight, if you count them as votes."
Kohtla-Järve has a population of a little over 33,000.
"It is well known that company employees often vote for their manager or company owner when he is a candidate and when he participates in politics," Repinski, no stranger to controversy himself, most recently after working as a Bolt taxi driver alongside his regular day job at the Riigikogu, continued.
"I think that every entrepreneur or company owner or manager of this kind, if they wanted to do something relating to the local government, could do so, and then they would gain the same level of influence, if not more," Repinski continued.
This meant there was nothing strange about Ossipenko-owned companies winning procurements from local government; since Ossipenko's companies were located in Jõhvi, adjacent to Kohtla-Järve, this also meant his prices could be lower than his competitors', Repinski said.
Ossipenko himself is the type of person who is very active, which is both a blessing and a curse, Repinski went on, in that keeping business and politics discrete things is difficult.
Nonetheless, the business side might in some ways have been easier if his friend had not gotten involved in politics also, the Center MP concluded.
"I think yes, it's really a very difficult challenge that ultimately leads to cases like what happened yesterday."
A total of around a 10 people are under investigation, including Ossipenko, following a Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) swoop on Tuesday.
Ossipenko himself does not hold political office at this juncture, though several of those detained for questioning Tuesday - many of whom will already have been released - do, and include the city council chair and vice chair, and two deputy mayors.
The suspicions primarily relate to the offering and taking of bribes, and of influence peddling.
Editor: Andrew Whyte