Prosecutors not launching criminal investigation into Pentus-Rosimannus
Following an analysis of the criminal offense report filed against ex-finance minister Keit Pentus-Rosimannus (Reform), the Office of the Prosecutor General concluded that there were no grounds for launching a criminal investigation, it was announced Friday.
On October 18, Riigikogu Anti-Corruption Select Committee chair and Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) deputy chairman Mart Helme submitted a criminal offense report to the Prosecutor's Office in which he suspected a violation of procedural restrictions in the nomination of Pentus-Rosimannus as Estonia's candidate for the European Court of Auditors (ECA). The 21-page criminal offense report was drawn up together with Tallinn law firm Lextal.
According to State Prosecutor Laura Aiaots, while the fact that it is the minister of finance who submits the candidate for the ECA, the process for finding the candidate remains unregulated.
"Based on the explanations provided by politicians and officials at Anti-Corruption Select Committee meetings, finding the candidate was not the finance minister's task, but rather first and foremost a matter of agreement between party leaders, i.e. a political decision," Aiaots said. "Thus, the Ministry of Finance's role in finding a candidate was in reality a formality, being responsible for drawing up the necessary documents and government order. Assessing the information presented in the criminal offense report, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus essentially did not direct this process, as the decision to seek a candidate had been made by the prime minister independent of the finance minister's activity."
According to prosecutors, the criminal offense report likewise doesn't contain evidence that the finance minister had steered the political candidate-seeking process preceding the nomination of the candidate, as according to explanations provided by several leading politicians, it was the prime minister who had proposed the candidate.
The finance minister was likewise on assignment abroad at the time the candidate was proposed to the government, with the minister of rural affairs filling in — in other words, Keit Pentus-Rosimannus did not participate in the confirmation of her own candidacy to the ECA.
"A criminal investigation extremely intensively violates people's fundamental rights," the state prosecutor said. "Therefore, a criminal investigation is a drastic tool, and it cannot be launched in a situation where the grounds for a criminal investigation should only start being sought in the course of the criminal investigation. A criminal investigation can be launched to investigate a violation of procedural restrictions if there is reason to believe that an official has, in the course of their professional activities, participated in making or steering decisions concerning themselves or individuals connected to them, but in this case, this decision was made independent of the official's activity. Drawing up a document or CV required for candidacy in the candidacy process is not considered a violation of procedural restrictions."
No considerations came to light based on materials submitted to and accessible by the Prosecutor's Office from which it could be concluded that Pentus-Rosimannus had substantially steered the decision for her to be named candidate for member of the ECA. Therefore, a criminal investigation should not be launched, the Prosecutor's Office found.
The oral hearing of Keit Pentus-Rosimannus' candidacy as Estonia's new representative to the European Court of Auditors (ECA) is scheduled to take place November 8. Juhan Parts' term at the ECA concludes on January 1, 2023.
Helme considering appealing prosecutors' decision
Commenting on the announcement, Riigikogu Anti-Corruption Select Committee chair Mart Helme, who had submitted the criminal offense report against the ex-finance minister, said that he was not surprised by the prosecutors' decision not to launch a criminal investigation, but that he is considering appealing it.
"I suppose I'll consult with lawyers," Helme told ERR on Friday afternoon. "This can't just happen; this is making a mockery of the rule of law."
The EKRE deputy chair said that it's not normal for the minister of finance to appoint themselves to a high office.
"I thought prosecutors wouldn't launch [an investigation]," he said. "The Prosecutor's Office launches [an investigation] when it's politically useful to do so. We don't have the rule of law, and everyone accepts that — but I'm not going to."
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Editor: Aili Vahtla