Opinion: Either too small to escape punishment or too big to punish

Ivan Makarov.
Ivan Makarov. Source: ERR

Nobody should be above the law, and yet every day, there's something in the news about things being rigged, schemes, embezzlement — and even petty theft from the supermarket, writes columnist Ivan Makarov for daily Postimees.

In his piece for Postimees (link in Estonian), Makarov remarked that the smaller the theft, the more heightened the reactions to the apparent audacity. A few years ago, he recalled, an older man was locked up for two months for stealing a couple of beers from the store. "The guy just didn't have a nephrologist on dial who could spare him from being served justice," he quipped.

Estonia has developed its own curious sense of righteousness, Makarov said, citing in contrast to the aforementioned incident the fact that Siim Kallas, who was never held liable as then-president of the Bank of Estonia for the "$10 million affair" of 1993, is moralizing the country while also remaining the neck that controls the head, in his daughter Kaja Kallas, of the popular Reform Party.

The country's ruling party and Estonia's largest, meanwhile, has committed criminal offenses, and its sentence, a relative slap on the wrist, was a hefty fine that it would nonetheless not be forced to pay if the Centre Party simply does not commit a new crime within the next year and a half. What about in a year and seven months' time? the columnist asks. Can't political parties be banned from committing crimes altogether? "What about the laundering of a malevolent neighbor's dirty billions?"

Regarding Estonia's researchers, who he acknowledged are underfunded compared to the country's politicians and businessmen, Makarov suggested that it's entirely possible that someone will be punished in an EU research funding-related scandal that broke at an institute of the Tallinn University of Technology (Taltech) a few weeks ago, "because in our state food chain, [researchers] fall somewhere between the innocent master of Hundisilma Farm and the guilty shoplifter in Pärnu."

Politicians who have seized power, however, may be spared from any actual liability, "and in those rare cases where they don't, they'll have a warm seat in the same system waiting for them once they're out of prison, as we have seen in the capital."

The principle of stealing as much as humanly possible from the state is a relic of the Soviet era, Makarov recalled, when construction workers stole construction materials, warmongers stole food and fuel, and doctors stole spirits — rendering the foundations of this foreign power into Swiss cheese. "Don't we feel sorry about our current country at all?"


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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