The Ministry of Education and Research disagrees with coming to a deal to lift a case it is pursuing for damages against its former minister, Mailis Reps.
The education ministry is demanding almost €190,000 from Reps, of which €70,000 elates to compensation for a ministry van-type people carrier used during her time in office. Reps had six children (now eight) at the time she left office in late 2020 following reports she had utilized the vehicle and its driver for the school run, along with other expenses issues.
Reps stands accused of embezzlement and fraud; it is a criminal case she is requesting be wrapped up, while a civil case remains.
The Ministry of Education and Research has declined to reduce its claim for damages on the former minister.
Reps had wanted to end the criminal case via a plea bargain, but the prerequisite so far as the prosecution was concerned was an admission of guilt, and an agreement with the Ministry of Education on compensation.
Sworn attorney Marko Kairjak of Ellex Raidla law firm, acting for the ministry, said: "The ministry's position is that in order to support any request to terminate the proceedings, Mailis Reps must admit that damage has been caused to the state, and present a clear schedule for the return of the proceeds."
Kairjak added that: "On the contrary, the ministry sees, with regret, that, despite the expressed wish to wrap up the court case, Mailis Reps has still taken the position, both in public and in the documents submitted to the ministry, that she does not see herself as culpable, nor does she see a need to return what was obtained by using the people carrier or imposing obligations unrelated her its duties on her subordinates."
"Considering the above, the ministry has replied to Reps' defense counsel to the effect that it is not viable to reach an agreement, and has also informed the court that the parties cannot reach agreement," Kairjak said.
This means in effect that the trial at the first-tier Harju County Court will continue.
Lawyer Paul Keres of the Levin office, acting for Reps, said the ministry's civil claim cannot be recognized in its entirety, because it contains a number of obviously unjustified expenses – for example the claim for the use of the ministry's vehicle for personal purposes,; such use of vehicles by ministers for personal purposes is a standard and valid practice, Keres said.
"If the court wanted, it could direct the civil action to administrative court proceedings and then end the proceedings in the criminal case via expediency. This has also been done before. There is a lot of case law to that effect. But if it doesn't want to, as seems to be the case here, we have no choice but to argue the case to the end," Keres said, adding that Reps herself has called the claim "blackmail."
The education ministry is based in Tartu.
Editor: Huko Aaspõllu, Andrew Whyte