The recovery claim of financial support given to OÜ Ermamaa shrank several times over a period of months once Enterprise Estonia (EAS) learned it cannot be pinned on the taxpayer and must be returned by the llveses.
That is the conclusion one is apt to draw looking at a letter EAS sent to the economy ministry that has just been freed from under a five-year access restriction the contents of which left the parliament's anti-corruption committee baffled.
The letter reveals that then head of the enterprise agency Maris Alajõe asked economy minister Juhan Parts whether it would be possible to cover the recovery claim using state assets left over from the Phare program, or in essence taxpayer money, on January 24, 2012.
While the existence of the letter has been known for some time, calculations it draws on are more revealing.
EAS maintained at the time that the presidential couple's OÜ Ermamaa has to return €68,224 of €190,390 made available to the tourism farm. The sum comes from dividing the original support sum by two and subtracting support for 17 months the company remained active from the result.
Minister Parts refused to use state assets to cover the claim and ordered EAS to take back the letter without sending an official reply.
On March 30, 2012, just two months later, EAS made a new decision: while the company would still have to return some of the support provided the farm complex is not put to purposeful use after Ilves' term in office, the amount had now fallen to just 10 percent of the original support sum. Or €19,039. That is the sum President Ilves returned on October 12 of last year.
Foreign dignitaries visited
The trick lied in treating the basis for support in a new light. It was now claimed that the president's numerous visitors fulfilled Ermamaa's intended purpose to promote Estonia as a tourism destination. However, since it is impossible to measure exactly to which extent the farm functioned as a tourism object, it is necessary to resort to a clause that makes it possible to only recover 5, 10, or at most 25 percent of the support sum.
That is to say OÜ Ermamaa's refund sum shrank threefold over a period of just a few months.
This fact came as a surprise to the Riigikogu Anti-Corruption Select Committee yesterday. The committee heard from Alajõe and Parts on November 14 last year.
Chairman of the committee MP Artur Talvik said that Parts surprisingly revealed the existence of the Phare letter, and suggested the committee find it.
Alajõe failed to mention the sum was three times bigger during the time when explaining the letter.
«Because we didn't have the letter (until yesterday – O. K.), we didn't know what the sum was. We only knew Phare was involved,» Talvik said. The MP added that the fact the letter was classified for a period of five years also bothers him.
«Only one conclusion can be drawn from this: a scheme was sought with which to make the sum go away,» Talvik said. «When Parts got mad and asked the letter to be withdrawn, the agency started looking for a new way. They went over all existing refund schemes and came up with 10 percent.»
Minutes of the committee sitting in November reveal that Alajõe did not tell the committee whose idea or initiative it was to cut the recovery sum at all costs. She said «EAS and economy ministry officials sought ways to do it».
EAS refuses to elaborate
Alajõe did not answer Postimees' call yesterday. Talvik recalled how Alajõe believed EAS had done nothing wrong. «She fiercely defended the point that the president hosting his guests at the farm meant the tourism farm had served its intended purpose,» Talvik said.
EAS has refused to explain why the recoverable sum was lowered threefold at the time, even though it is most probable it still employs some of the officials it did five years ago.
Head of communications Kadri Kütt said the foundation has reached the final stages of administrative proceedings to analyze once more all the decisions tied to the project launched in November. «We will provide additional clarification once proceedings have been concluded,» she said.
Alajõe, who currently works as the chief of the Office of the Riigikogu, said last week she will apply to continue in her position also for the next five years.