TALLINN - Former Reform Party Secretary General, current Justice Minister Kristen Michal expressed hope that the investigation that was initiated on May 22 to check into the allegations of former MP Silver Meikar will disperse the suspicions over financing of the party, but he added that if that is not the case, he is ready to quit his post, reports Postimees Online.
Michal said that the most important thing now is to dismantle the suspicions over financing of the party. He expressed his opinion that the financing of the Reform Party is transparent and that Meikar’s claims about illegal financing are not true.
A long-term Reform Party member, Meikar wrote in an article in Postimees on May 22 that from 2009-2010, he donated 115,000 kroons (7,370 euros) to the Reform Party, money that did not belong to him, and that the origin of which he does not know. Meikar, who was a Riigikogu member in 2003-2004 and 2006-2011, wrote that the proposal to make the donations look as if he made them came from the then Reform Party chairman, current Justice Minister Michal. The money was mediated by current Riigikogu member Kalev Lillo, who then worked at a leading post in Reform Party’s office.
Michal and Lillo made a statement on Tuesday saying that Meikar’s claims are not true and that they will ask the police to investigate the claims. “We think that the claims of Silver Meikar, that he has not donated to the Reform Party from his own financial means, are surprising and regrettable and we consider in the current situation it only possible that such claims, and whether there is information referring to a crime in the presented claims, be investigated by the prosecutor’s office and the police,” they both noted.
“The work of the secretary general of the party is, after all, to ask for donations for the party, not for himself. I have done that for eight years and that is reflected in the Reform Party economic year’s report,” said Michal. “If Silver has any criticism against himself or others, he has always had the chance to raise the issue,” said Michal. “He has not done that over the years and has chosen the path of scandal.”
Lillo said that he definitely refutes claims that he gave any money to Meikar.
The State Prosecutor’s Office launched a criminal investigation on Tuesday to check Meikar’s claims - that the Reform Party has accepted property from unknown sources which has been registered as donations of party members.
The criminal investigation was launched on the basis of the Punitive Code provision that prescribes liability for violation of restrictions set on party economic activities and assets, reports Public Broadcasting. According to the law, a party can receive income only from party membership fees, allocations from the state budget, allowed donations and transactions conducted with property of the party.
Meikar said that dozens of the party’s members have supported the party this way. He said he won’t point out their names since they form “the whitest part of the dirty chain.”
“They did not benefit directly from the deal and it is difficult to say ‘no’ when the party asks for help. But it is my fault and their fault that by agreeing and keeping silence, we have enabled the money laundering system to work successfully,” wrote Meikar.
He said in an interview to Public Broadcasting that the aim of making the financing schemes of the party public was to bring about change. “The problems that concern party financing have been talked about for a long time, but it has brought no change, in essence. The party financing legislation is still not adequate. Also, these things that I wrote about in the article continue to take place, i.e. ‘shady’ money is given to parties. It is used, for example, in election campaigns in order to gain power,” he said.
Meikar said that if all the people who have been connected to such things, or were aware of them, should come out and honestly say so, say they were ashamed and won’t do it again, then it might make a change. “I know many people who have felt sincere concern about the same thing and shame over it, that they have done the same thing, but have not dared to speak out. I hope that such a bold statement makes them say it publicly,” said Meikar, adding that all he wants is to make the state and his party better. Meikar said that he likes his party and doesn’t intend to quit.
Company financing as solution
Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip estimates that in order to rule out shady financing of parties, the possibility of companies making donations to parties should be restored and illegal donations have to be criminalized again.
“We all remember how once there was a case when two unemployed Center Party members donated 200,000 kroons, and that nothing happened after that. Although the current case concerns my party members, I wish that conclusions were drawn in the current case and that the conclusions were such that would rule out the repetition of such cases in the future, if they really did take place now,” Anisp said on national television.
He added that legislative nihilism should be reduced and a situation should be created that there would not be as great a wish to make donations in the name of someone else, as there is now in Estonia.
Ansip said that in order to rule out shady financing of parties, the possibility for companies to make donations to parties should be restored. “As we know, donations by companies to parties are forbidden in Estonia,” he said. Ansip added that the donations’ scandal harms the reputation of both the Reform Party and state institutions. He said that the investigation has to find out the truth, but he believes in Michal.