Ex-IT minister Kert Kingo says she followed law when misleading Riigikogu

Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Kert Kingo
Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Kert Kingo Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Kert Kingo (EKRE), who resigned as foreign trade and IT minister on Wednesday, has given her side of the story in a statement, saying that data protection regulations prevented her revealing the full nature of the employment contract which had been drawn up with Jakko Väli, due to work for her as an adviser, only for the contract to be rescinded a day later.

"I owe an explanation for the background of my resignation," Kingo said in a statement, ERR's online Estonian news reports.

"I am convinced that I have not communicated incorrect information to the public. Jakko Väli was supposed to be a part-time advisor starting Oct. 21, but I requested his contract be revoked at 11.07a.m. on Oct. It ended before it began. Väli did not advise me for one second. I have not lied about our meeting." Kingo continued.

The former minister also said that she could not specify the circumstances of the contract with Väli at the Riigikogu on Monday, Oct. 21, under the terms of the Personal Data Protection Act and the EU General Data Protection Regulations.

"Had I disclosed the circumstances surrounding the Jakko Väli contract, I would have violated the law. It is possible that the opposition's purpose was precisely with that in mind," she said.

After it came to light that Kingo, far from having never met or hired Väli as an adviser as she claimed in answer to several questions put to her by opposition MPs at the Riigikogu on Monday, had in fact drawn up and signed a contract with him, she was forced to step down following a Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) meeting on Wednesday evening. She faced calls to resign from opposition MPs as soon as the existence of the contract and other work preparations for Väli became public, on Wednesday afternoon.

Kingo said that current regulations mean an employer is responsible for ensuring data is not transmitted without a legal basis, including the consent of the data subject, i.e. Väli. The content of an employment contract can only be issued for clarification in the case of the data subject having committed an offense, Kingo said.

Kingo thus implied that the economic affairs ministry leak which brought the contract to light, was not in accordance with these regulations.

"Despite bringing these legal nuances to the attention of officials, the Ministry of Economic Affairs revealed the Jakko Väli contract to the media on Oct. 23. When it comes to resigning from my post, I do it with a light heart, but with a clear conscience," she added.

Why Kingo opted to hire Väli in the first place and the basis on which she hired someone she said she had only met once in her life is not clear from the statement, however, according to ERR's online Estonian news.

The day after Kingo faced the Riigikogu, the economic affairs ministry issued a response to independent MP Raimond Kaljulaid's request for information by saying Kingo herself had requested the contract with Väli be signed, which as a result happened on Oct. 18.

It is also clear from ministry communications that Väli himself filed for the cancellation of his employment contract a day later, formalized on the same day.

Väli had given hints of his impending work for Kingo last week, via a series of increasingly defiant social media posts. Earlier this week, he was expelled from the Green Party over another social media post, this time making offensive remarks about former politician Evelyn Sepp.

As noted Väli's contract with Kingo had already been terminated by this time.

Prime Minister Jüri Ratas told ETV current affairs show Aktuaalne kaamera that Kingo had told the Riigikogu that there had been no hiring of Väli, wheras that had in fact happened.

Martin Helme, deputy chair of the Conservative People's Party of Estonia (EKRE) also told ETV politics show Esimene stuudio that lying was wrong, and that Kingo had made a mistake in recruiting a staff member then later had to resign.

Kert Kingo became Minister for Foreign Trade and IT in May, replacing Marti Kuusik, who was in office for just one day and forced to step down, again following media allegations – this time that he had engaged in domestic violence.

Throughout her tenure she faced criticism for, among other things, shunning foreign travel in a role which necessitates it, refusing to use English as a working language in international meetings, using a Huawei smartphone despite security concerns, and dodging government press conferences.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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