Chairman of the Riigikogu Anti-Corruption Select Committee Artur Talvik said that while the conduct of state real estate manager RKAS was proper in selling the properties of the Arsenal shopping center, several suspicions of political corruption remain for the committee to investigate.
The committee heard from former supervisory board chairman Taavi Rõivas (Reform Party), former RKAS board member Elari Udam, and current CEO Urmas Somelar yesterday.
Talvik said that Rõivas gave thorough answers and lifted the shadow of suspicions from RKAS, while the former PM allegedly remained vague in terms of when he learned of influential fellow party member Rain Rosimannus' business interests in the Arsenal project. “If Äripäev wrote about it in 2012 and Rõivas was chairman of the supervisory board at the time, it is highly unlikely he had no knowledge,” the committee chairman said.
Talvik emphasized that the conduct of RKAS and Rõivas in the transfer process has been handled by the book. Several loose ends remain, however, especially as concerns Rosimannus.
“Things surrounding Rosimannus' option in the project are suspicious: did money really change hands, or was the option given in return for some kind of services,” Talvik wondered, and said these matters require further investigation.
“Looking at the list of owners of the Arsenal Center, it includes a lawyer whose business is to represent entrepreneurs who want to remain hidden.”
Talvik regards as absurd Rosimannus' explanation that he registered his stake as an option because he feared Tallinn's centrist city government would intervene: “Everyone knows he had dealings with Savisaar. They are united in the spirit of cutting deals.”
Talvik also said he wouldn't be surprised if Rosimannus had a bigger stake in the center than the currently known share of 4.65 percent. The head of the committee refused to explain suspicions in more detail.
The select committee plans to continue its investigation into the sale of the properties under the Arsenal Center and corresponding suspicions of influence peddling.
Rain Rosimannus said that Talvik is spreading false claims. “I was given the right to obtain a holding – an option – on the same grounds as everyone else who helped finance the project, for money invested, and it is something I can certify to agencies that have the powers to inquire at any given time. “The claim that I own a bigger holding in Arsenal through some lawyer is another piece of fiction by Talvik.”
Rosimannus could not say what reason Talvik could have to come after him. “It is possible that these baseless attacks form a part of his campaign for Free Party chairman,” he supposed.
Rosimannus said he is confused in that if the property was obtained via an honest public auction, which fact has been confirmed by both the National Audit Office and the anti-corruption committee, what is there to investigate? “What difference does it make who obtained the property – whether Artur Talvik or the Pope in Rome. Everyone who makes the best offer at a public auction can obtain whatever they want to obtain in Estonia. Including Rain Rosimannus,” he said.
Head of Endover Kinnisvara Robert Laud said yesterday, when commenting on the sale, that securing a permit from the city government for changing a property's detailed plan in just four months, as was the case regarding the Arsenal Center, is far from commonplace.
“I do not know the background or the details; however, if you ask me whether it happens often detailed plans are changed in just four months, the answer is definitely no. We see that communicating with the city planning department is a long and arduous process. We are talking about periods of 12 months and more,” Laud said.