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5 parties file bill to banish convicted criminals from party finance watchdog

Priit Toobal PHOTO: Sander Ilvest

Five of the six party groups in the Estonian parliament initiated a bill of amendments to the Political Parties Act on Monday that would prohibit persons punished pursuant to criminal procedure from taking part in the work of the Supervisory Committee on Party Financing.

«The appointment of Center Party member Priit Toobal as member of the committee was an act so shameful that we cannot leave it without a response,» Kalvi Kova, deputy chair of the Social Democrat (SDE) group, said.

Kova said that only by removing Toobal can the credibility of the supervisory committee be maintained.

«A person who in his capacity as a party's secretary general has taken part in shady and unlawful financing schemes being tasked with checking the financess of parties stands in direct contradiction to the public's sense of justice,» Kova said.

She said the amendments also would have a preventative effect in that they would rule out the possibility of some political party sending a person who has been convicted of an intentionally committed offense to sit on the committee.

The bill filed by the groups of SDE, Reform Party, Pro Patria and Res Publica Union (IRL), Free Party and the Estonian Conservative People's Party would prohibit persons punished for an intentionally committed criminal offense from sitting on the supervisory committee. It would also ban from the committee persons who have been banned from certain professions or activity in certain fields of life.

The opposition Center Party has appointed Priit Toobal, secretary general of the party, its representative in the Supervisory Committee on Party Financing.

The committee consists of two members appointed respectively by the chancellor of justice and the auditor general, plus one member appointed by each of the parties represented in the parliament who is not a member of the Riigikogu or the government.

The criminal chamber of the Supreme Court on Nov. 20 last year upheld guilty sentences for Toobal and another Centrist politician, Lauri Laasi, for inciting a third person to unauthorized surveillance but acquitted them of violating the confidentiality of messages. The top court also found Toobal and the Center Party as a legal person guilty of document forgery.

The top court's criminal chamber found that it was adequately proved that Toobal and Laasi induced Ivor Onksion to use accidentally obtained access to the e-mailbox of another person to systematically collect information from the e-mails contained therein. At the request of the Centrist politicians Onksion printed out 455 pages of messages and forwarded the printouts to Laasi and Toobal.

The Supreme Court at the same time acquitted the men of breaching the confidentiality of messages. According to the penal code, violation of the confidentiality of messages takes place when a message communicated by a letter or other means is disclosed at the time of communication. Onksion was accessing and recording messages that had already reached the recipient.

The criminal chamber also found that the lower level courts had correctly established that Toobal forged five Center Party income statements to enable the party to use cash from unknown sources.

The Supreme Court left unchanged the punishments meted out to Toobal, Laasi and Onksion by lower level courts. Laasi received a suspended sentence of nine months with three years' probation and Toobal a suspended sentence of one year with three years on probation. The Center Party had to pay a fine of 10,000 euros in addition to procedure expenses.

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