The owner and CEO of a company at the heart of controversy which has hit Prime Minister Kaja Kallas says that no sanctioned items had been produced by that company, Metaprint, nor transported by Stark Logistics.
Kallas' husband, Arvo Hallik, had a stake in Stark Logistics, which he now says he is selling.
Metaprint's partner company on the ground in Russia, OOO Aeroprom, was formalized in the name of Metaprint's financial manager, Emeri Lepp, at the suggestion of Metaprint's lawyers, Martti Lemendik, the company's CEO, says.
Metaprint has not been involved in sanctions-evading, he added.
The company primarily manufactures aerosol cans and, while the body packaging of such items are sanctioned, can tops and bottoms are not, and it is these which have continued to be supplied to Aeroprom in Russia, Lemendik said.
The last shipment of the now-sanctioned body packaging was sent four days before the relevant sanction was activated, which happened on March 27 this year, he added.
Lemendik denied being engaged in a JOKK* scheme.
"It is not technically possible to produce half-made aerosol bottles for dispatch," he said.
"We have not changed the delivery logic, the configuration of materials," Lemendik continued.
Lemendik also stated that he is Metaprint's ultimate beneficiary; the company had no hidden shareholders in Russia, he said.
As for the slow pace of disengaging from Russian business in the 18 months since the invasion of Ukraine began, Lemendkik said that Metaprint's ongoing credit portfolio in Russia came close to a billion rubles; an immediate disengagement would have gifted all this for free to the Russian economy.
That there was this much money – a billion rubles is around €9.7 million at today's rates – on credit was the result of the fact that Metaptrint's customers are not end consumers in the stores, but other companies that use their packaging.
"Consequently, we do not take money our production immediately, but work on a sale on credit. Payment terms can be up to 180 days," he said.
The plant in Russia is based in Krasnoe Selo, near St. Petersburg and around 120km from the Estonian-Russian border; prior to the sanctions, the aerosol can bodies were sent together with the tops and bases, for assembly there
OOO Aeroprom has one main customer in Russia, OOS Metaprint, which maintains contraccts with the customers – Lemendik added that the final beneficiaries of all client companies, to ensure that none of these are internationally sanctioned individuals, though he could not comment on specific client contracts, citing confidentiality requirements.
Aeroprom in turn belongs to Pottala, a private limited company registered in Estonia, in the name of Metaprint's CFO Emeri Lepp.
Lemendik said the layer cake structure of the firms had been proposed by their lawyers, and there was no shadow beneficiary.
This related to the realities of doing business in Russia, in order to avoid hostile takeovers.
Stark Logistics, a company which the Prime Minister's husband, Arvo Hallik, had until recently a 24.8 percent stake in, came under public scrutiny from last Wednesday since, despite Kallas' and her government's consistent line in calling for businesses to cease trading with and activities in Russia, in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine, Stark continued to do just that, by transporting Metaprint's output to Russia.
In any case Martti Lemendik owns over half of Stark Logistic's shares.
Both Lemendik and Hallik also jointly own the related Stark Warehousing OÜ
While Hallik said late last week he would be selling his 24.8 percent stake in Stark Logistics, for a sum his wife, the prime minister, said on Monday was a negligible sum, ERR has at the time of writing received no answer from Hallik as to whether he will also divest his stake in Stark Warehousing.
*A Juriidiliselt on kōik korrektne (JOKK) scheme is one which is, while everything is legally sound, seen as a cynical exploitation of the letter of the law, while riding roughshod over the spirit of that same law.
Editor: Karin Koppel, Andrew Whyte