Centre deal with prosecutor ends lengthy process, says party secretary

Centre Party Secretary General Mihhail Korb.
Centre Party Secretary General Mihhail Korb. Source: Siim Lõvi

The Centre Party has confirmed an agreement reached with the prosecutor's office regarding penalties it faces for a range of alleged infringements including illicit donations and instances of corruption. This places conditional fines on the party, suspended for as long as the party does not commit any further similar indiscretions. The exact total of the fines is not known, but likely to be in the region of €250,000, it is reported.

The party's secretary general, Mihhail Korb, told ERR Friday that the development brings an end to a lengthy and complex saga and will involve potential large financial outlays in the form of fines.

These could exceed €200,000 and be as high as €250,000. Were this to be imposed the financial strain on the party would be immense, given it already has substantial debts (reported at €400,000 in October 2018 and around twice that of opposition Reform Party).

However, the sentence is conditional as the result of a sort of plea bargain where the party conceded it had accepting illicit and concealed donations. The largest of these related to a land swap between businessman Hillar Teder and Tallinn City Government, which was carried out via a loan to €275,000 loan to Midfield OÜ, a company owned by former Centre Party campaign mastermind Paavo Pettai dating back to 2014.

Teder was relased from trial in June after admitting covertly helping to fund the party in 2014.

More recently, in July 2018, Centre had been ordered to pay back €220,000 it had received from a company belonging to Paavo Pettai, which had made the transfer to Centre's account (the total sum was €250,000), ostensibly for a share in another property purchase, this time in Tartu.

Additionally, the fines relate to illicit donations to the tune of €110,100 dating back to party co-founder and former Tallinn mayor Edgar Savisaar's time as party leader, and Savisaar's own corruption trial (in which Teder and others were co-defendants). The trial, which bounced up to the Supreme Court after passing through the lower-tier county and circuit courts, was abandoned in late 2018 due to health concerns surrounding Savisaar.

Prosecutor General Lavly Perling confirmed to ERR that the sentence is conditional and that an agreement has been signed, though remained tight-lipped on details.

"It is vital for the prosecutor's office that the agreement first goes to the courts, from where we can publish its details. Therefore, the prosecutor's office cannot state at this time the specific amount contained in the agreement," Perling said.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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