Police interview former minister in corruption probe

  • 2007-10-16
  • From wire reports
TALLINN -- Villu Reiljan, Estonia's former environment minister and ex-chairman of the People's Union, was summoned by security police on Oct. 16 for an interview, the People's Union has confirmed.

The interview is connected with an ongoing probe into land exchange deals.

On Monday the security police declared the listed construction company Merko Ehitus and the chairman of its supervisory council Toomas Annus suspects in a case involving bribery and misuse of trust.

Local media have repeatedly linked Merko Ehitus with the investigation by the security police of the land swap deals carried out by the Land Board, an agency of the Environment Ministry.

The previous minister for agriculture, Ester Tuiksoo, who is also a member of the People's Union, has been declared a suspect in the probe in connection with a plan that the Agriculture Ministry would move into a new office block Merko is building in Tallinn's Parnu Road.

The security police declared Tuiksoo a suspect in bribe-taking last Tuesday. The suspicions concerning Tuiksoo are related to the search for new premises to be leased by the Agriculture Ministry, Public Prosecutor Laura Feldmanis confirmed.

The former minister denied any wrongdoing.

The security police are investigating possible corruption at the Land Board in connection with land swap deals which used a mechanism set out by law that allowed owners to exchange nature conservancy lands where property development is banned or restricted for state-owned properties. The former head of the Land Board and several businessmen have been named as suspects in the case.