Anu Hallik-Jürgenstein, head of the Tallinn city government's urban planning department, testified in the trial of suspended Tallinn mayor and former Center Party chairman Edgar Savisaar in Harju County Court on Tuesday, claiming that Savisaar had no contact with the problematic property of the daughter of businessman Vello Kunman.
Kunman's case concerns activities at the construction site at 108 Sihi Street in 2014 and 2015. Hallik-Jürgenstein said that she had heard about Kunman's property in 2014, when design specifications and a building permit were issued to the property. According to these documents, the historically valuable building on the property had to be maintained, and only the construction of an extension was permitted, but as the builder did not follow the plan indicated, construction work at the site was halted.
"Information about the violation reached the city via the complaints of neighbors," Hallik-Jürgenstein said, adding that a city official subsequently conducted an on-location inspection and an injunction was issued.
Hallik-Jürgenstein said that businessman Vello Kunman, father of the owner of the property, contacted her and asked what the property's outlook was. Hallik-Jürgenstein said that she told Kunman that as the plan had been significantly violated, a demolition demand was likely to be issued. She said that she also gained a lot of media attention at the time, as due to increased public interest, she had to deal with the issue more than usual. "I did not personally handle each illegal construction as much as this one," Hallik-Jürgenstein said.
She recalled that the property owner was fined €2,000, which was paid. After that, the city was of the opinion that the illegally built building must be partly demolished and the demolished historically valuable building must be restored. Hallik-Jürgenstein said that the city government also went and observed what was happening on site at the beginning of 2015, when it was clear that there was no ongoing construction work on the property anymore. "I signed the final demolition precept last May," the city official said.
She recalled that she only met with Kunman once, while she did not meet with Villu Reiljan at all. Hallik-Jürgenstein also said that she informed then-deputy mayor Taavi Aas about the matter, who agreed with all of the decisions made by the urban city planning department.
Hallik-Jürgenstein said that Edgar Savisaar had no contact with the Sihi Street property. However, his subordinate Erki Korp did send a letter to her, in which a reference was made to the significant violation on the Sihi Street property and the need to demolish the building, while the letter also implied that the final decision was for Taavi Aas to make. Hallik-Jürgenstein said that she also showed the letter to Aas and did not pay any further attention to it.
Former minister Villu Reiljan, standing accused as part of the case against Savisaar, testified in August that he had asked Savisaar for help in order to solve the problems of his former employer, businessman Vello Kunman, with regard to a property on Tallinn's Sihi Street, and said that Kunman was prepared to financially support the Center Party.
Charges against Savisaar
The Office of the Prosecutor General has charged Savisaar in using Tallinn city budgetary funds for the benefit of the Center Party and himself, i.e. embezzlement on a large-scale basis, by an official and by a group, as well as in four cases of accepting bribes, money laundering and the acceptance of prohibited large-scale donations to the Center Party. The Center Party has also been charged as a legal entity.
Charged with bribing Savisaar are businessmen Aivar Tuulberg, Alexander Kofkin, Hillar Teder and Vello Kunman. Tallinn City Council chairman Kalev Kallo has been charged with assisting in the making and accepting of bribes; former politician Villu Reiljan is charged with arranging a bribe of Savisaar. Põhja-Tallinn deputy city district elder Priit Kutser has also had to stand trial.
Hearings began in the case on June 12, when the defendants stated that they understood the charges but did not plead guilty.
Businessmen Paavo Pettai and Tarvo Teder as well as MP Siret Kotka-Repinski and acting mayor of Tallinn Taavi Aas have already testified as witnesses in the trial. The court has also been able to hear several subordinates of businessman Alexander Kofkin, employees of Hillar Teder's companies as well as city officials.
Of the defendants, Reiljan and former Tallinn official Priit Kutser have given their testimonies. The latter hoped that his case would be closed for reasons of expediency, but the Office of the Prosecutor General did not agree with that.
On Aug. 9, Harju County Court separated materials pertaining to Reiljan from the criminal case in order to pursue a plea deal with the businessman.
Editor: Aili Vahtla