Businessman admits to bribing Centre Party, released from trial

Hillar Teder.
Hillar Teder. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonian businessman Hillar Teder, who was accused of having bribed former Tallinn mayor and long-time Centre Party chairman, Edgar Savisaar, admitted on Tuesday that he helped covertly fund the party in 2014. Teder was released from the trial on grounds of expediency, daily Postimees reported.

Teder said that he sought to swap land with the City of Tallinn. To get the plot in question in Tallinn's Kadriorg neighborhood, Teder offered a €275,000 loan to Midfield OÜ, a company owned by former Centre Party campaign mastermind Paavo Pettai. The loan at the time covered the costs the Centre Party had ramped up for its advertising.

Teder said in court on Tuesday that when he met with Savisaar on Jan. 19, 2015, he understood that he was asked to pay a bribe. "That's what it appears to have been, and that is regrettable," Teder said.

"My promise was to give Paavo Pettai a loan, so that he could pay the Centre Party's advertising bills," he added, explaining that in return, the party got the city to initiate the land swap. Though this never happened: Teder eventually got a negative reply from the city's administration.

Teder: Kallo not directly involved

To initiate the land swap, incumbent Centre MP and then-city councillor Kalev Kallo invited Teder to submit the necessary documents. Kallo's case has been pending for several years, most recently leading to Bank of Estonia council chairman Mart Laar requesting Kallo's dismissal from the bank's highest supervisory body.

Though Teder said he doesn't know the details of what exactly went on, he confirmed that he didn't speak to Kallo anymore after handing in the documents. "How much of it was agreed with Savisaar, that I don't know. But the proposal to submit the application came from [Kallo]. It came from him, but he knew it was what I wanted," Teder said.

Pettai acted as intermediary

The loan his own Retail Real Estate OÜ granted to Pettai's Midfield OÜ, meanwhile, wasn't a bogus arrangement, Teder insisted. Pettai was to pay the money back in its entirety once the Centre Party squared its own debts with him.

Asked why Teder had opted to approach the mayor through Kallo in the matter of the land swap, Teder said that he didn't see any other option. "At the time, there was no point in going to anyone else, it had to be taken to the mayor. It was easier for Kallo to take it to Savisaar than it was for me," he said.

While the case against Kallo continues and he has been stripped of parliamentary immunity, Savisaar's own trial was ended last year due to his bad health. Savisaar had faced graft, embezzlement, and large-scale money laundering charges.

Other businessmen embroiled in the broader case include Aivar Tuulberg, Alexander Kofkin, and Vello Kunman. Like Teder, they are also accused of having bribed Savisaar.

Kallo is facing charges for aiding in the giving and accepting of a bribe. Former politician Villu Reiljan of Rahvaliit (People's Union of Estonia), a precursor of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE), was accused of arranging a bribe for Savisaar as well.


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Editor: Dario Cavegn

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