Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna (Eesti 200) does not see a conflict of interest in the fact that his former employer and current business partner Semetron, a manufacturer of field hospitals, has earned millions of euros from diplomatic deals between Estonia and foreign countries, but is still promising to sell his stake in the business, writes Eesti Ekspress.
The newspaper reports (link in Estonian) that when Tsahkna was defense minister and a member of the Riigikogu earlier in his political career, he vigorously promoted the interests of the defense industry. Later, he became export manager for Semetron, a defense industry corporation, where he was responsible for securing contracts in Estonia and abroad.
Even though Tsahkna has been a minister again since the spring, his work for Semetron cannot be considered his "previous job" because he is still a shareholder in MM Hospital OÜ, a company that is affiliated with Semetron's field hospital business.
Tsahkna owns one-fifth of MM Hospital OÜ, a company that is building hospitals on a military base, but its majority shareholder is the tycoon Margus Linnamäe through several businesses. ERR.ee reported in April, following Tsahkna's appointment as foreign minister, that according to the commercial register, Linnamäe is also the company's actual beneficiary.
This week's Ekspress reports that the latest field hospital agreement with the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs was reached during Tsahkna's tenure as minister, resulting in another order from Iceland for Semetron. During Tsahkna's tenure as Minister, MM Hospital, which is owned by the Estonian Foreign Minister, generated €4.3 million in revenue.
In addition, the Estonian government, along with Lithuania, has issued a request for proposals to purchase up to €150 million worth of field hospitals.
Tsahkna and ministry officials claim that all of this is organized by the Ministry of Defense alone and that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has nothing to do with these transnational deals. However, the newspaper writes that Tsahkna organized various deals and defense industry visits while working in the private sector with the support of the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Through diplomatic transactions, foreign countries have paid Estonia a total of €28.3 million to provide Ukraine with container field hospitals built exclusively by Semetron.
In an interview with Eesti Ekspress, Tsahkna emphasized that his private sector activities ceased when he became a government official and that he is presently attempting to sell his mobile hospital business.
"Negotiations on the terms of the sale of the passive stake in MM Hospital are ongoing, as the company's other shareholders have made an offer," Tsahkna said.
Editor: Mirjam Mäekivi, Kristina Kersa
Source: Eesti Express