Minister Urve Palo asked favour for Oleg Ossinovski

Tuuli Koch
, reporter
Copy
Please note that the article is more than five years old and belongs to our archive. We do not update the content of the archives, so it may be necessary to consult newer sources.
Photo: Repro

This letter of request has not been officially entered into economy ministry register. Having still seen it, one will feel like asking: why did the Soc Dem minister Urve Palo this summer send her Lithuanian colleague a letter in hopes to cancel or at least cut a €2.5m claim against an enterprise of Oleg Ossinovski, major donor to Soc Dems and father of its chairman Jevgeni Ossinovski?

That Prime, foreign or economy ministers send letters abroad asking help for our entrepreneurs is nothing unheard of. For the most part, these are diplomatic addresses general in their wording.

Postimees got hold of a letter by Ms Palo, a bit over a page in length and full of details, specific and in Russian  (the Lithuanian minister replied to Ms Palo in Lithuanian). Considering that it is rather the English language that has traditionally been used between ministers of various nations, one may conclude that the letter has been penned in the office of Oleg Ossinovski’s enterprise Skinest Baltija UAB which ran into problems in Lithuania.

This July, this is what Ms Palo wrote his Lithuanian colleague Rimantas Sinkevičius. «I am writing to you regarding our recent telephone call and related to claim of damages by AB Lietuvos Geležinkeliai AB (Lithuanian Railways) against Skinest Baltija UAB,» begins Ms Palo. «Skinest Baltija UAB is a reliable supplier of wagons with several years of cooperation experience in supply of wagons to Lithuanian Railways.»

She goes on to list merits of Skinest Baltija UAB towards Lithuania: with parent company, they are in cooperation with Lithuanian Railways since 2005; till today, as at today, the company has supplied 740 wagons to carry various cargo with total value of about €53m; in 2012, Skinest Baltija UAB won 76 public procurements, 115 procurements in 2013, 102 a year after that, and in 2015 they have already won a quarter of procurements arranged.

«Currently, Skinest Baltija UAB has encountered a regrettable situation in Lithuania,» continues Ms Palo, describing contractual misunderstandings between the two companies since 2011 which on May 25th this year culminated with Lithuanian Railways filing a new claim against Skinest Baltija UAB for €2,505,070.

While sparing the reader of even more detailed descriptions of contracts of supply and procurement for wagons (among other things, Ms Palo lectures her colleague: «Let me underline that two varying procurement procedures cannot be interlinked as each procurement contract only corresponds to the conditions specified in documents for the selfsame procurement»), let us read the conclusion arrived at in the letter: «According to the above, I am asking you as the minister of said domain and my colleague to consider the proportionality, relevance and basis of the additional claim of damages.»

In a letter in Lithuanian, Ms Palo got an answer from Lithuanian economy and transport ministry by deputy minister Saulius Girdauskas, to clarify local traditions.

«Let me call to your attention that pursuant to rules prescribed by Lithuanian government the ministry will not interfere in disputes between two economic agents. Despite Lithuanian state being the holder of its shares, Lithuanian Railways is a separate legal person and entitled to take independent decisions,» reads the letter.

The ministry also refers to Lithuanian constitution and civil code pursuant to which governmental agencies are forbidden to interfere in activities of legal persons with administrative methods not prescribed by law. «Despite that, the ministry as shareholder of Lithuanian Railways is concerned by the situation that has arisen,» admits Mr Girdauskas. «Wishing to help towards a peaceful solution, the ministry had recourse to Lithuanian Railways asking that they present their standpoint and assessment to possible ways of finding a solution. The ministry was informed that Lithuanian Railways would show benevolence to reach amicable solution. The ministry expresses hopes that the situation indeed is solved beneficially to both parties.»

According to Urve Palo now in Riigikogu, Oleg Ossinovski contacted her this summer and was deeply troubled that Lithuanian Railways was treating them wrong.

«I couldn’t tell him, could I, that as your son happens to be in our party and also at a high post, then I will not help you,» said Ms Palo. «So then we decided that as a minister I may call my Lithuanian colleague and tell him to face the topic. Jevgeni Ossinovski knew nothing about the letter and I did not think it necessary to tell him about it.»

Why was the letter not in the register? «I do not document letters. Ergo, there must have been a human error here, I do not enter letters into register.»

Ms Palo says it is arbitrary to conclude that she was managing business in Lithuania for an entrepreneur. «That it happened to be Skinest is just happenstance. It could have been any other Estonian enterprise. Don’t see a ghost everywhere. My heart is at peace. I was in no way exceeding my powers and I was not indifferent. I would have acted the same with any enterprise. Even today I do not regret. I see no need.»

COMMENT

Oleg Ossinovski, owner of Spacecom AS and Skinest Grupp

I am aware of the letter. I personally addressed the minister asking for help with a letter of support as this was advised by Estonian embassy in Lithuanian. This is a totally normal process. This kind of help has been surely received and will be received by many Estonian entrepreneurs who need state support while operating elsewhere. All states support the export capacity of the enterprises in their country. Logically, this is mostly done by foreign ministry or economy ministry. It is totally irrelevant in the given instance which party the definite minister belongs to. Currently, Estonian foreign minister and enterprise minister are from different parties, I received help from people under the domain of both. The help by foreign ministry was in that Estonian ambassador in Lithuania Toomas Kukk actively participated at several meetings and repeatedly advised us, for which I would like to separately thank him herewith.  

COMMENT

Jevgeni Ossinovski, Soc Dems chairman

The Social Democratic Party has no connection with this topic whatsoever. I understand the letter was motivated by a plea for help towards economy ministry by Estonian entrepreneur in a problematic situation in another country and herein the party a definite minister belongs to definitely plays no role. From there on, in a letter compiled by help from officials in the ministry, the minister has asked her Lithuanian colleague to weigh options to cut restrictions set on the Estonian enterprise. I am sure the then minister Urve Palo and the economy ministry officials in the know can comment more specifically.

State support to Estonian enterprises operating in other countries is primarily offered by economy ministry and foreign ministry, through the network of foreign representations. Hundreds of entrepreneurs have received practical help in establishing and developing relations, as well in protection of investments. Likewise, state institutions of other nations support enterprises from their countries operating in Estonia. This is totally normal and welcome.

-------------------------------------

ON JEVGENI OSSINOVSKI’S LINKS WITH FATHER

Jevgeni Ossinovski, in «Eyewitness» aired on April 15th 2015

Is it true, the rumour that your father wants to buy up Estonian Railways’ EVR Cargo, and yet you are at [Kristen] Michal who will decide about that?

«I am not aware of my father’s business plans. For some, I don’t know, dozens of years I have shown no close interest actually, to say nothing about being linked with it. And whatever he wishes or wishes not to do will definitely in no way affect my political activities.»

On links between Jevgeni Ossinovski and Skinest Grupp in Postimees web portal, August 14th 2015

In online interview, the Soc Dems chairman was asked, among other things, how he was to establish himself as party chairman in a situation where Skinest Grupp, at the council of which he sat mere year ago, found itself in an international corruption scandal.

Mr Ossinovski saw no problem in it. «Soc Dem chairman and Soc Dems lack any links with Skinest Grupp and its activities. My participation at the council was always purely formal, I got no pay for it, and did not participate in decision-making process,» he replied, adding that even the formal link has gone missing now for a year.

Jevgeni Ossinovski as mentioned by Russia-minded Latvian politician Nils Ušakovs

This summer, Nils Ušakovs explained to Latvian business daily Diena his relations with Oleg Ossinovski, saying they met in a local restaurant in the winter. «This was the first and the last time, when we met in Riga. Late winter or early spring – I don’t remember for sure,» said Mr Ušakovs.

«We met in a restaurant. It was a courtesy meeting. We have no common subjects to discuss. However, I do know his son who is Soc Dems chairman in Estonia. So, indirectly, I know the father via the son.» (Latvian Diena / Estonian Ärileht)

Jevgeni Ossinovski’s links as minister to Oleg Ossinovski’s doings

On September 30th a high level meeting took place at Swissôtel between Estonian and Azerbaijani business delegations. As economy minister Urve Palo was unable to participate to represent Estonian government, education minister Jevgeni Ossinovski replaced her. According to participants at the meeting, the goal of Jevgeni and Oleg , at the meeting, was to propagate Alexela Oil’s project in Azerbaijan. Skinest Grupp happens to have a holding at Alexela Oil. (Ärileht)

Jevgeni Ossinovski has a legal link to Skinest Grupp

For years, Mr Ossinovski has sat at Skinest Grupp council and participated at council meetings. To this bear witness the minutes and decisions from Skinest Grupp council meetings.

Top