Experts: VEB fund letter not post-factum fake

VEB fondi uurimiskomisjoni esimees Rainer Vakra jagab riigikogus ajakirjanikele kommentaare.

PHOTO: Heiki Rebane / BNS

Yesterday, the conspiracy theory of Eesti Pank collusion to fiddle $32.2m worth of VEB fund claims to a Russian company got a boost as it turned out the letter containing false data was indeed issued by the central bank in the very 1995.

Namely, as assessed by Estonian Forensic Science Institute while analysing the blank, print-shop notes, formalisation, and ink samples of the letter signed by former Eesti Pank chief Vahur Kraft, it was sent from the institution on April 5th 1995 and has not been faked sometime later.

According to Riigikogu investigative committee chairman Rainer Vakra (SDE), this proves the fraud helping TSL International to later withdraw the sums frozen in Russia was planned two or three years ahead – as directly assisted by Eesti Pank’s letter.

By the letter, Eesti Pank verified that the sums in Russian state-owned Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs(Vnesheconombank, VEB)corresponding to VEB fund certificates registered with Estonian state and Eesti Pank in 1995 belonged to the company TSL International.

Full awareness

At the moment, the company had no claims whatsoever in the fund. In reality, the claims belonging to Estonian state and Eesti Pank were purchased from Ühispank (Estonian Union Bank) in 1997 and 1998 by Russian millionaire Aleksandr Matt’s company (the man being an Estonian citizen). Though the details of the deal are not public, TSL International succeeded in obtaining the claims dozens of times cheaper than original value. By then, Estonian enterprises had lost faith in ever getting their money back from Russia, thus turning the claims into small change.

TSL International was among the rare few who had a motivation to obtain the claims, as, differently from Estonian companies, Russia stood ready to pay out sums frozen for Russian companies at VEB. Eesti Pank indeed claims that by using their 1995 letter with false data, TSL International in 1998 obtained $32.2m worth of obligations or roubles in Russia.

«Repeatedly, the committee developed doubts that perhaps the letter was formalised later so the whole system would look more honest, clear, and logical for the bystander,» said Mr Vakra. «As proven by expert assessment, it was an activity carried out with full intent and awareness, which commenced in Eesti Pank in 1995 and came to its successful end only in 1998.»

Whoever arranged the plan is currently being investigated by the Riigikogu committee, National Audit Office, and Office of the prosecutor General.

Mr Kraft has been summoned twice by the Riigikogu committee. Last fall, he presented the committee papers by which he sought to show that in 1995 TSL International did have a $32.2m claim in VEB. A couple of months later, forensic examination found the papers to be fake.

Mr Kraft avoids comments to media. Neither will Mr Vakra reveal whom the committee considers to be the author of the scheme, or who issued the faked documents shown by Mr Kraft.

15 days to go

The committee has had repeated telephone contacts with Mr Matt, but the man has always failed to show up for questioning as agreed. «Regrettably, we have to admit to not having any contacts with him lately – it’s been cat and mouse,» said Mr Vakra.

This March, documents signed by Mr Matt surfaced in SEB bank (formerly Union Bank) showing how he obtained the needed VEB fund claims in 1998. Last December, Mr Matt admitted to Eesti Ekspress [the weekly – edit] that he did get the money, based on the claims, from VEB in 1998. Even so, he said the money belonged to TSL International and he did not need to explain that before the committee.

The committee is scheduled to present its VEB report before Riigikogu on June 18th