At the head of a government coalition with the conservatives and the far right (EKRE) since April 2019, the centrist Prime Minister, Jüri Ratas, tendered his resignation on Wednesday, April 13. The day before, the Attorney General’s office in Tallinn had revealed that his training was under investigation for influence peddling, in connection with a real estate development project, in the Estonian capital. After a meeting of several hours with the leadership of his party, Mr. Ratas said he had not taken ” no malicious or knowingly bad decisions “. He hoped, however, that his resignation “Would shed light on all the circumstances” of the case.
Tuesday, January 12, the secretary general of the centrist party, Mihhail Korb, directly implicated by the prosecution, said he was leaving his post. Finance ministry adviser Kersti Kracht, headed by EKRE leader Martin Helme, has also been provisionally suspended.
Conducted by the internal security services, the investigation relates to the conditions for the allocation, in July, of a loan of 39 million euros, guaranteed by the State, to the real estate company Porto Franco, for construction of a building complex, valued at 200 million euros, in the port of Tallinn. Benefiting from an extremely favorable interest rate, it aroused the anger of competing companies, who denounced preferential treatment, especially since this type of loan should be reserved for companies affected by the health crisis. Prime Minister Jüri Ratas swept aside criticism, assuring that the project was to bring in 18 million euros to the Estonian economy by 2021 and create 500 jobs.
However, investigators suspect the centrist party of having benefited from bribes in exchange for the loan. Businessman and real estate developer Hillar Teder, whose son Rauno Teder is Porto Franco’s main shareholder, has reportedly agreed to donate one million euros to the formation of the prime minister, ahead of local elections in the fall . According to Estonian media, the centrist party has already received 120,000 euros in donations in 2020.
Aged 42, Jüri Ratas was Prime Minister since November 2016. For two and a half years, he ruled with the Social Democrats and the Conservatives (Isamaa). But after the legislative elections in March 2019, the coalition fizzled out. With her party coming in second (with 23.1% of the vote), Kaja Kallas, the leader of the Reform Party (28.9%), was tasked – in vain – with forming a government.
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