Tallinn Mayor Mihhail Kõlvart on Raadio 2 refuted statements given in court by fellow Center Party member Jaanus Karilaid according to which Kõlvart must have had in-depth knowledge of the party's financial situation a few years ago.
Eesti Ekspress on Wednesday described day 13 of the Porto Franco trial where Mihhail Kõlvart and Jaanus Karilaid gave statements.
According to the weekly, Kõlvart remained tight-lipped when answering prosecutor Taavi Pern's questions and said he has never been privy to the Center Party's financial affairs or read donation reports.
However, Jaanus Karilaid, who followed Kõlvart to the stand, suggested that the Center Party's financial situation was so poor a few years ago that a group of four or five core members met to discuss it almost weekly.
Karilaid said the group was made up of party leader Jüri Ratas and deputy chairmen, including Mihhail Kõlvart. "He was definitely up to speed," Karilaid emphasized more than once.
Kõlvart told Raadio 2's "Hommik!" show that while he was up to speed on the financial situation, he did not know who [then party secretary general] Mihhail Korb asked for money.
"I don't know who asked whom and for what. I know that I have never asked anyone for money. Neither for the party nor for myself. I know that for a fact," Kõlvart said, adding that he has no idea who Karilaid may or may not have approached for funds.
Host Bert Järvet asked Kõlvart whether he has fallen out with Karilaid or whether the latter's statements have to do with the fact the mayor has decided to run against Center leader Jüri Ratas at in-house elections.
Kõlvart said he cannot comment on Karilaid's motivation.
The host then pointed to a meeting between Kõlvart, businessman Hillar Teder's son and head of the Porto Franco real estate development Rauno Teder to ask what was discussed.
"I will start by saying no one has influenced me, and even if someone wanted to, I don't think they could pull it off. Second, the mayor meeting with citizens and businessmen is hardly news. Everyone has that opportunity, while there are procedural steps that need to be taken first," Kõlvart replied.
The Public Prosecutor's Office in May of this year charged Hillar Teder, Mihhail Korb and NGO Estonian Center Party with influence peddling.
According to the charges, then Center's secretary general Korb used his personal and the party's influence over the mayor in the interests of Hillar Teder and the Porto Franco project to give them an unfair advantage in determining the price of a relevant easement.
In exchange, Teder pledged to donate up to one million euros to the Center Party.
Before the meeting with Rauno Teder, the city wanted €776,580 for the easement, while the final price was lowered to €301,000 by April 2020 when the contract was signed. According to Kõlvart the price changed because the initial calculation was based on the plot being registered as business land, while it was later found to be transport land, which is subject to lower prices.
Between July and December 2020, Hillar Teder donated €120,000 to the Center Party, which the prosecution interprets as a result of influence peddling.
Kõlvart said that the prosecution said at the very beginning of the trial that it has no criticism for the city. "That Tallinn officials conducted themselves in accordance with the law, which has been proven to be true in the course of the trial, as far as I have seen," the mayor said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski