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Kallas: the timing no accident

Siim Kallas saatis teisipäeval erakonnakaaslastele kirja, kus asja omalt poolt selgitas. PHOTO: Peeter Langovits

This Tuesday, the day Prime Minister Andrus Ansip stepped down, Eesti Päevaleht published copies of documents bearing signature of Siim Kallas, on the basis of which it may be asked why he promised a hundred million dollar bank guarantee to businessmen of mixed background. Meanwhile, Reform Party was already busy investigating who stuck such compromising papers into media.

«Political attacks, at the opportune moment, can be arranged against all doers. Today’s timing leaves us no doubt regarding that,» on the very day commented Reform Party secretary-general Martin Kukk.

On Tuesday, the European Commission vice president Mr Kallas sent his party comrades a letter, providing his explanations. «These same Eesti Pank working documents have, over the years, been shown me by various people, whom I cannot suspect of being friendly,» disclosed Mr Kallas.

Yesterday, Mr Kallas assured that, as assessed by him, the timing of the surfacing of the material cannot be coincidence. Even so, he was unwilling to say for sure if the issue might, in his opinion, have an effect on the forthcoming coalition talks. «Whether it affects [it] or not, will be seen during the talks.»

Version: IRL interests

In the political grapevine, the most widespread version yesterday was that it’s the current coalition partner IRL responsible for the appearance of old documents, in the person Eerik-Niiles Kross. This is related to unwillingness by Mr Kallas to confirm IRL that the current coalition will continue – by now developed into a strong likelihood of an emerging Reform/soc dems deal.

Mr, vice chairman of IRL, in his talk to Postimees rebuffed the claim that the Eesti Päevaleht stories based on activities of Mr Kallas, 20 years ago, are based on documents gotten from him.

«This is an absurd claim,» he said. «The same king as me having seajacked the [cargo vessel] Arctic Sea as well. I do not know where these materials came from, not from my archive for sure.»

Mr Kross added he did not understand why he would have to stick some old documents on Mr Kallas into the media. «What would I gain from that?»

He rebuffed the assumption that the incident might be linked to the upcoming coalition talks: «As much as I have heard, they aren’t planning to hold any essential talks with IRL anyway.»

Centre Party vice chairman Kadri Simson does not believe that the materials surfacing, on Mr Kallas, might lower his chances to become the head of next government.

«A 20 years old loan guarantee might become fatal to a prime minister, towards whom «no confidence» is planned,» noted Ms Simson. «For a prime minister candidate, with two competing parties wanting to get into the government to be created by him, this will hardly pose an obstacle.»

Ms Simson added that the creation of the new coalition is quite far advanced already. «While the media is unrolling this story, I hear that talks are underway regarding the persons of the new ministers,» said she.

To our knowledge, the fax copies published by Eesti Päevaleht have earlier been repeatedly been offered to the media for to be published; the first try being in the second half of the 1990ies. Even so, they haven’t come public so far.  

These are papers talking about issuing central bank guarantees. «We, Eesti Pank, hereby guarantee issuance of bank guarantee valued at $100m, on December 12th 1994,» reads the document signed by then Governor of Eesti Pank, Mr Kallas.

The documents fail to reveal, however, what the transaction was that the central bank may have wanted to guarantee; neither do they testify whether the guarantee was actually issued.

Value of papers unclear

From explanations by Reform Party, regarding the incident, one understands that, in 1994, there was difficulty with liquidity in the banking sector, and that the central bank was attempting to find ways to obtain loans for commercial banks. Aware of the situation, businessmen – some more and some less reliable – were encircling the central bank, desiring to become mediators to the money.

According to the version heard within Reform Party, the documents bearing signature of Mr Kallas were a part of one such attempt to bring extra money into Estonia, not leading to any results, though.

In connection to the event, the newspaper has mentioned names of Estonian businessman Leonid Apananski, active in Estonian in the 1990ies, and of A British businessman Michael Cunningham.

What exactly it was about, it is hard to find out in retrospect, as no documents have been discovered regarding this in Eesti Pank.

As assured by central bank, in order to answer questions posed by journalists, they have looked through reports from 1993 to1996, as well as archives dating back 20 years – finding nothing on the issue. The report also hold no obligations related to the letters of guarantee published.

Thus, Eesti Pank probably did not undertake obligations; even so, the materials easily leave the impression that the central bank and its governor Mr Kallas, 20 years ago, tried to do dark business with a strange bunch of people. Whether that’s the case or not, remains unclear for the moment.  

Also, this may only be a fragment of some bigger pack of documents. In the documents published so far, nothing is revealed on the kind of transaction people wanted the guarantee for, neither on the conditions of its activation.