Kallas: Human error behind €350,000 loan 2022 interests declaration absence

Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform).
Prime Minister Kaja Kallas (Reform). Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

A €350,000 loan the prime minister gave to a company owned by her spouse did not end up in last year's declaration of financial interests as a result of human error, the prime minister says.

Appearing at the regular government press conference Thursday, albeit from the setting of the Vihula hotel, in Lääne County, where the government has repaired to for a few days, the prime minister once again did not appear why a journalist would scrutinize her on the topic, and asked what the concern was.

Kallas said that she has submitted all the documentation required and has acted in a highly transparent manner.

She added that she had provided loans to her husband's holding company, received interest on the loan, and paid income tax on that interest earned.

"I have presented everything, demonstrating that I have presented things to the committee, a committee which should in fact be closed, yet the members of the committee have been going public with these things," Kallas said.

In early 2022, Kallas granted a €350,000 loan to Novaria Consult, the holding company owned by her husband, Arvo Hallik.

However, this was not mentioned in the corresponding declaration of economic interests.

Kallas said Thursday that she has always based this activity on an understanding that her income should be published over the course of the calendar year. However, having now examined the guidelines, she said that it transpires that this is not the case.

"When I read the guidelines, according to the requirements, this must be [fulfilled] as things are of the day the declaration was made. This is human error. I have declared everything, but simply for the calendar year," she said.

When asked what role any bank played in concluding the loan agreement and what errors had formed the basis for the need for changes, Kallas said Thursday that she had also submitted the preliminary agreement to the Riigikogu's anti-corruption select committee, whose members can check up on the errors.

As a person with a public background (in Estonian: PEP), all her banking activity will come under greater scrutiny there, Kallas added.

"The bank will its own comment, which can be collated with what was altered in the contract," Kallas said, adding that she did not have the contract to hand at the press conference, and in any case this documentation is not public.

On Wednesday the premier said that her signature on the contract loan to Novaria Consult was dated February 3, 2022, because the bank requested the amendment of typos in the document actually first signed on January 5.

A day earlier, on Tuesday this week, ERR News reported that Kallas signed that agreement on February 3, days after visiting Metaprint – the company whose products Stark Logistics, the company Hallik owned at 24.8 percent stake in via Novaira, had been exporting to Russia.

Kallas says this loan has been repaid in full as of now; Novaria paid off the last installment in August 21, ie. after Arvo Hallik had been asked about the transport of items to Russia.

There is also a €22,000-loan which was subsequently issued to Novaria which has not been repaid.

Tõnis Mölder, a member of the Riigikogu select committee before which Kallas testified on September 4, said of this latter sum – stated at the time as being €20,000 – had not been returned yet, "but since we also do not have an overview of the loan agreement, it is difficult to comment on when it was issued and when it must be paid back."


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Karin Koppel

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