Materials from the Reform Party's 2012 financing scandal, known as "Silvergate," are now accessible to the public, and some of the materials may implicate current Reform Party chairman Hanno Pevkur in connection with cash involved in the scandal. Pevkur categorically denies these claims.
During an interrogation at the Office of the Prosecutor General five years ago, Mairo Kiho, a businessman with a criminal background, described in extreme detail how he and then-business partner Marek Leenurm sought to buy off a Packaging Excise Duty Act suitable for them with the help of Kalle Palling, then a member of the Environment Committee of the Riigikogu, for a sum of 20,000 kroons, or approximately €1,280, daily Postimees (link in Estonian) reported.
Asked whether the cash, which was transferred to Palling in three installments, had reached the party coffers, Leenurm's former classmate Pevkur allegedly confirmed that "the cash had reached the pot."
Pevkur, who responded in writing to Postimees' questions, confirmed that he knew Leenurm, but denied any connection whatsoever to the so-called "plastic bag cash." Leenurm, who is currently not on good terms with Kiho, claimed the same.
The Office of the Prosecutor General, which investigated Kiho's claims, was unable to prove at the time that Palling had influenced the Packaging Excise Duty Act to be more beneficial to the businessmen, although one big obstacle in the matter was the fact that the Riigikogu refused to hand over recordings of the Environment Committee to investigators, citing the Riigikogu's right to carry out its constitutional duties trumping the interests of the investigation.
Pevkur contacts Prosecutor's Office
Pevkur announced on social media on Tuesday morning that, as the entire Postimees story was woven based on a single claim by Mairo Kiho, a "forest thief that he did not know," he contacted the Prosecutor General.
"Does the Prosecutor's Office confirm that the claim that I allegedly confirmed upon Marek Leenurm's request that money had reached 'the pot' was confirmed in the course of the criminal investigation?" Pevkur asked.
According to the current Reform chairman, Office of the Prosecutor General adviser Kaarel Kallas responded, "The Prosecutor's Office confirms that, based on the materials of that criminal case, this claim has not been confirmed."
Pevkur noted that Postimees could have asked them the same question. "But I guess the clickbait was so great and the gossip that writing such a story about a party chairman generates more important to them," he added.
"The Reform Party I lead has a clear zero-tolerance party for under-the-table money," Pevkur said. "The current secretary general, who is responsible for finances, knows this as well. Then-Secretary General Kristen Michal can answer regarding previous financing transactions."
"One person claimed that Pevkur had confirmed the money reaching 'the pot,'" Kallas told ERR. "This is one person's claim. The Prosecutor's Office is unable to confirm it. We cannot deny it, but also cannot confirm it."
Silvergate: Money funneled illegally into Reform coffers
The scandal surrounding potentially illegal donations to the Reform Party broke in 2012, when former MP and then-Reform Party member Silver Meikar admitted to illegally funnelling money into party coffers, and claimed that dozens of other party members had done the same. According to Meikar, they received cash from senior party members, then made personal, private donations to the party in the same amount.
Then-party chairman and Prime Minister Andrus Ansip and other members of the party's upper echelons denied any knowledge of money being funneled into the party this way.
The matter drew to a close at the time when the prosecutor gave up her investigation due to a lack of evidence.
Editor: Aili Vahtla