Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna's (Eesti 200) connection to a company which makes field hospitals, many of which have been supplied to Ukraine, does not represent a conflict of interest, Eesti 200 leader and Riigikogu speaker Lauri Hussar says.
Minister Tsahkna has stated personally that in his role as minister he has had nothing to do with the sale and procurement of the field hospitals, meaning that no conflict of interest has arisen, Hussar said.
The company, Semetron, is affiliated with MM Hospital OÜ, of which Tsahkna is a shareholder.
Speaking to Vikkerraadio show "Uudis+" Monday, Hussar said: "[Tsahkna] has informed his political party, the Internal Security Service, as well as state agencies about his business interests. In this case, it has been clearly established that the foreign minister's participation in this company [related to Semetron's field hospitals business] MM Hospitals, is in accordance with the law."
"He is involved in passive participation now, an in becoming a minister he stepped down from the company's activities; so today, if we take the law as the basis, everything is legal. In accordance with the law, Margus Tsahkna has not done anything wrong," the Eesti 200 leader added.
Hussar said Tsahkna has repeatedly assured him that he has distanced himself from the management of the company involved in the production of field hospitals, and so, Hussar says, he sees no conflict of interest here.
According to Hussar, Tsahkna has told him that he is currently considering selling his MM Hospital stake, adding that this was a matter for the minister. Hussar said that Minister Tsahkna had his confidence in relation to any decisions he may make on the matter.
Hussar noted that the situation would be different if the foreign minister had had any dealings with sales activities or procurements via MM Hospital/Semetron.
While this would constitute a conflict of interest, Tsakhna's repeated word that he had not been involved in any active sales activity with MM Hospital since becoming minister, was good enough for Hussar.
Former state prosecutor and Transparency Estonia (Korruptsioonivaba Eesti) board member Steven-Hristo Evestus had said that Tsahkna should step down from all involvement with MM Hospital, as should any of his family members.
Meanwhile, Meelis Oidsalu finds that the situation where a sitting foreign minister is involved in a business which profits from what are in effect defense procurement contracts casts a pall over the Estonian government and also undermines the domestic defense industry.
MM Hospital is majority-owned, via various holding companies, by Margus Linnamäe, a reclusive mogul whose business interests include the Postimees media group, MM pharmaceuticals wholesalers, and the Apollo entertainment group.
MM Hospital has taken in €4.3 million in revenue since Tsahkna became foreign minister, in April.
The Estonian state has also, during that time, announced a joint tender with the Lithuanian state, for field hospital procurements worth up to €150 million.
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.
Editor: Kaspar Viilup, Andrew Whyte
Source: ERR Kultuur portal