Scandal threatens Estonia's chances to win BMW

  • 2001-03-15
  • BNS
TALLINN - German businessman Willy Martens, stripped of his powers of proxy to act as an intermediary between the Estonian government and the German car maker BMW in a bid to bring BMW's new car plant into Estonia, is accusing officials at the Economics Ministry of incompetence.

Martens holds a letter from BMW that mentions Estonia as a possible location for the plant, the Aripaev business daily reported March 12.

The row between the ministry and Martens stemmed from the ministry's decision to abruptly end cooperation with the businessman.

It was also the result of sharp differences over the spending Estonia should have already allocated in order to improve its chances in the competition for the important investment by BMW.

The Economics Ministry sent a fax to BMW on March 2 indicating that it had canceled the powers of Martens and that any further exchanges of information should be conducted through Merike Kompus, an adviser to the minister of economics, or Estonian Ambassador Riina Kionka.

Martens on Feb. 16 sent a letter to the economics minister saying that Estonia had a very good chance to win the investment, citing a letter from BMW he had received on Feb. 9.

Kompus told the newspaper the ministry had never seen the letter Martens was referring to and that no official notice had been sent to the ministry by the German car maker. She said all information about Estonia's possible success had come from Martens.

BMW is planning to invest roughly a billion German marks ($467 million) in the new plant, which will give employment to 2,500 people. The plant needs to acquire a plot of about 250 hectares at an acceptable price.

The idea that Estonia could enter the competition for the investment came from Martens, who introduced it to the Estonian economics minister.