Former PM on Center Party Porto Franco acquittal: It is baffling

Jüri Ratas (right) and Mihhail Korb.
Jüri Ratas (right) and Mihhail Korb. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Former Center Party head and Prime Minister Jüri Ratas, who resigned in the wake of the Porto Franco scandal in 2021, said that the court's decision to acquit the accused was positively baffling. Ratas does not believe the prosecution was meddling in politics when it brought the case.

"I remember the discussions and political debates in the Center Party that started on January 12, 2021. I also remember the morning of January 13 when I gave a press conference in the White Hall of the Riigikogu and announced my resignation. The only reason was my desire to cleanse the Center Party of corruption and now suspicions had been brought against it," Ratas told ERR in an interview.

He described the court's decision as baffling but quickly added that it has not entered into force yet. Ratas said he remembers asking the Prosecutor's Office whether there is enough proof to charge the Center Party in the case. "The court's ruling is positively baffling in that it suggests that was not the case."

"I remember a time when Kaja Kallas could not stop accusing me of Porto Franco misconduct in political debates. I believe these people have something to think about today."

Asked whether he regrets his decision to resign in this light, Ratas said that he cannot turn back time and that the decision was the only one to make in its time. "Because my vision of cleansing the party collapsed in that moment. I am glad that Estonia has rule of law, and that the initial decision found everyone not guilty, including the Center Party."

He also said that he does not believe that the prosecution was or is meddling in politics.

Ratas said that the scandal hurt Center's rating and was taken advantage of my its political opponents. "And the court's decision today shows that this was not right."

The scandal in which the midtown Tallinn Porto Franco real estate project was the focal point of allegations led to the collapse of Jüri Ratas' government in 2021. Ratas resigned when suspicions were brought in the case after having previously pledged to rid Center of its reputation of being prone to corruption.


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Editor: Urmet Kook, Marcus Turovski

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