Eamets' conflict of interest prevented by University of Tartu years ago

From left  Raul Eamets, Toomas Asser.
From left Raul Eamets, Toomas Asser. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Entering into a fictitious contract for the Pere Sihtkapital think tank's controversial study was not University of Tartu Dean Raul Eamets' first conflict of interest situation. Information available to "Aktuaalne kaamera" suggests the university prevented a potentially corrupt situation three years ago when it decided against signing a rental agreement in a building that was acquired by Bigbank in the middle of negotiations.

The university learned of the fact that Raul Eamets is a member of Bigbank's supervisory board during contract negotiations.

In 2019, the university set about looking for new premises for the Tallinn office of its law faculty. The property at Narva maantee 11, which used to house Danske Bank's Estonian offices and is currently occupied by the National Library, was eventually chosen. The building was owned by KEK Arendus at the time with which the university entered into negotiations. But just as the talks were nearing the home stretch in October of 2020, KEK Arendus sold the property to Bigbank subsidiary Rüütli Majad. Negotiations continued with the new owner.

University of Tartu Rector Toomas Asser said that just when the talks had arrived at what seemed like suitable terms, the university learned of ties it had to Bigbank's supervisory board.

Those ties concerned Eamets who was serving both as dean of social sciences and a member of the bank's supervisory board. The university does not know whether Eamets fed Bigbank information. But because an external legal analysis concluded that a contract would have constituted a violation of procedural restrictions for the dean, the university pulled out of the negotiations.

"The fact there was a conflict of interest was quite clear. He was in the know and likely aware of what was available on the market. But we do not know how Bigbank approached the situation and where it got its information. But the ties were a fact, and we terminated the talks virtually overnight," Asser said.

Raul Eamets said in a written comment to "Aktuaalne kaamera" that he did not participate in the rental contract negotiations in the name of the university. While he was not involved in finding new real estate for Bigbank, he was aware of the fact the bank was looking for a new main office and the supervisory board discussed and approved acquiring the property at Narva maantee 11 on October 7, 2020.

The dean apparently learned of his potential procedural restrictions violation on November 17 that year when he was forwarded the legal analysis by the university's chancellor. While Eamets agreed at the time, he now finds the analysis was wrong because he was not an official as a member of the bank's supervisory board and not involved in the process on behalf of the University of Tartu.

Bigbank's owner Parvel Pruunsild did not find the time to comment on Tuesday.

The incident only culminated in a conversation between Asser and Eamets at the time and was not made public even when the rector decided to remove Eamets from office ten days ago, even though Asser acknowledged it when prompted by "Aktuaalne kaamera."

The rector said that because Eamets had realized his mistake three years ago, the matter did not go beyond a conversation.

Raul Eamets believes the situation today constitutes an attack by the university and told "Aktuaalne kaamera" that his patience with the university has run its course and that he will be resigning as dean himself. As is the case regarding the university's no-confidence motion, Eamets' letter of resignation will need to be approved by the faculty council that is meeting again in late August.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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