New Narva criminal probe into SDE deputy activity joins current Centre one
Estonian prosecutors have launched an investigation into the actions of Narva City Council opposition deputy Ants Kutti (SDE). This comes in addition to the criminal investigation opened in August into the activities of eight councillors and former Centre Party members.
Mr. Kutti has been accused of a conflict of interest in sitting not only on the Narva council (in opposition to the then-ruling Centre Party) but also being a board member of a museum in the town, the SA Narva Muuseum foundation. During that time, Mr. Kutti reportedly voted in favour of allocating money to the museum a total of three times in his role as city council deputy. The total sum set aside for the museum through these votes totals €9.5 million, it is reported.
The situation on the Narva City Council is already in a state of flux, given that nearly 60 former Centre members have reportedly quit the local branch of the party, with 13 core members who had sat on the council forming a new political grouping, Meie Kodu Narva ('Our Home, Narva').
The report concerning Mr. Kutti was filed by Alekesei Voronov, chair of Our Home, Narva.
Accused becomes accuser
However, Mr. Voronov is himself under investigation for corruption as well, along with several other former Centre councillors, since a criminal investigation was opened into separate alleged corruption activities concerning him, and seven other former Centre council members (who all went on to form Our Home, Narva, together with five other individuals not accused of corruption).
Mr. Voronov states that Mr. Kutti should not have been involved in votes on fund allocation to SA Narva Muuseum.
In something of a case of tit-for-tat, Mr. Voronov adds that the facts listed in his report on Mr. Kutti are the same as the grounds for suspicion pointed at himself and his co-accused, so in the interests of consistency, Mr. Kutti should receive the same treatment.
Spokespersons for the Viru District Prosecutor's Office, under whose auspices Narva lies, have stated to the Baltic News Service that a criminal investigation has been opened on the basis of Mr. Voronov's report, but noone has as yet been declared suspect.
Centre Party rebellion
The eight members who were subject to the original investigation in August had been suspected of similar activities to those of Mr. Kutti, namely voting on issues which they had an interest in, and transferring assets or obtaining finance for those companies.
Mr. Voronov is also CEO of municipal water supplier Narva Vesi, and 24 of those who recently left the Centre Party are employees there, it is reported.
After discussions the accused members were ordered to stand down from the council, and any high level positions on city institutions, for the duration of the investigation by party leader and Estonian Prime Minister Jüri Ratas.
After initially refusing to do so, the eight, plus five other Centre council members, left the party and formed Meie Kodu, Narva, on 16 August, electing Irina Janovitš leader.
Additionally, a former Centre Party MP, Olga Ivanova, who is from Narva, quit the party and its parliamentary grouping soon after the city council defections.
Both the investigations of Mr. Voronev and the other seven former Centre members, and Mr. Kutti, who has apparently not left the Social Democratic Party (SDE) at the time of writing, are ongoing.
Narva itself has been hosting President Kersti Kaljulaid since last Tuesday as she carries out some of her official functions, including receiving four new foreign ambassadors, in the city, as well as being the venue of the Station Narva festival on the weekend of 21-23 September.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte