In an appearance on Vikerraadio's "Stuudios on peaminister" on Tuesday, Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform) explained that her stated assumption that the Prosecutor's Office would not launch a criminal investigation into former finance minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform) did not constitute giving guidance to prosecutors regarding the matter.
In an interview last week, ERR Brussels correspondent Joosep Värk asked Kallas whether Pentus-Rosimannus would remain the Estonian government's candidate for the European Court of Auditors (ECA) should the Prosecutor's Office launch an investigation regarding the former finance minister.
"The Prosecutor's Office has decided once already not to launch [an investigation into this], and I presume they will maintain their position," she replied at the time.
On Tuesday, Kallas stressed that this did not constitute giving guidance to the prosecution.
"I cannot give such guidance," she said.
"What that meant was — there was even an article on September 27, 2022: 'Prosecutor: No evidence of criminal dimension in minister's ECA candidacy,'" the prime minister highlighted. "Meaning that they've looked into it. That a member of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) has submitted that complaint already, then. They've decided on that basis that there is no criminal dimension in that saga and that they won't be launching that [investigation]. And since no circumstances whatsoever have changed in the meantime, then I presume that the Prosecutor's Office has no reason to decide otherwise."
Host Mirko Ojakivi noted, however, that the initial criminal offense report was just one sentence long, and by contrast, the 21-page criminal offense report submitted by EKRE MP Mart Helme last Tuesday is significantly more in-depth and was drawn up together with Tallinn law firm Lextal.
Kallas said that in the past week, she had not read the criminal offense report filed against Pentus-Rosimannus.
Pentus-Rosimannus served as minister of finance in Kallas' second government and continues to serve as deputy chair of the prime minister's Reform Party.
Commenting on Kallas' expectation that the Prosecutor's Office still won't be launching a criminal investigation, Minister of Justice Lea Danilson-Järg (Isamaa) described the entire situation as unfortunate.
"Stating any presumptions regarding the actions of the Prosecutor's Office can lead the public to believe that these are attempts to politically influence their work," Danilson-Järg had written on social media. "That undoubtedly isn't the case, but the Prosecutor's Office needs peace to work in order to reach an impartial decision."
According to the prime minister, Danilson-Järg's interest here is in standing for the interests of her party.
"The minister of justice is a representative of Isamaa; Isamaa has 'its own dog in the race,'" Kallas said. "They want to handle this matter in such a way that Keit Pentus-Rosimannus isn't the candidate [for the ECA]. Which is why all of their statements need to be considered in precisely that light. One could just as well say that her such statement is influencing the prosecution in reverse."
She said that behind Helme's criminal offense report about Pentus-Rosimannus is a political battle, and one that Isamaa is involved in as well.
"A political battle is a political battle," Kallas said. "But the fact that Isamaa and EKRE are trying to bring back that 90s mentality, where people tried to compromise their political competitors by launching criminal investigations... Like my dad's $10 million case.* Political agreements are political agreements, and they are not subject to any sort of officials' procedural restrictions."
*Kallas was referring to a scandal dating back to 1993 involving then-Bank of Estonia governor Siim Kallas and the approval of a loan of $10 million from North Estonian Bank.
Editor: Aili Vahtla