Hillar Teder: No link between donation and Porto Franco loan decision

Hillar Teder.

PHOTO: Erik Tikan

The Center Party that was embroiled in a donation scandal as recently as this summer took in three times as much in donations than other parties combined in the third quarter. The party’s most generous donor was businessman Hillar Teder whose only donation of €60,000 went to the ruling Center Party, third quarter reports sent to the Political Parties Financing Surveillance Committee (ERJK) reveal.

Teder made his donation in two parts, transferring Center €30,000 on July 1 and another €30,000 on September 9. The government decided on September 3 to grant a working capital loan of €39.4 million to Hillar Teder’s son Rauno Teder’s Porto Franco real estate development in Tallinn’s prestigious port area.

Hillar Teder said that donations he made to the Center Party and the Porto Franco loan decision are not linked. “Well, you see, we cannot connect these things. One cannot credibly claim that someone has sponsored a political party for a decade in anticipation of a coronavirus crisis or something similar. It is completely random, there can be no other explanation here,” the businessman said.

“I have simply supported the Center Party more or less quarterly following ideological considerations and I will try to continue doing so in the future,” Teder added, pointing out that the government also greenlit major loans for fuel seller Alexela and Baltic Sea shipper Tallink. “You pick one thing out of a hundred and say that it’s suspicious. Perhaps it could be construed as suspicious if everyone donated. On the contrary, there is no pattern there whatsoever,” Teder went on to say.

“The first thing is to file an application with KredEx and if the agency decides to support the project, it will take the matter to the government. It is not a case of simply asking the government for a loan. At the end of the day, the government is just doing technical work,” Teder explained.

On September 10, a single day after receiving the second part of Teder’s donation, Center returned €40,387 to the city of Tallinn for what was deemed illicit advertising during the 2017 local elections campaign on the “Russki vopros” program on PBK. The ERJK found that Center had used public funds to pay for party elections propaganda during programs aired between September 2 and October 14. While the party tried to challenge the precept in all three court instances, the Supreme Court refused to process its complaint. This meant that Center had to comply and return the sums to the city.

The Center Party took in €160,540 in donations in the third quarter or from July to September – more than any other party has received in 2020. In the second quarter, the party received €41,184 in donations.

The party’s recent scandal that culminated in Center returning a donation of €50,000 to businesswoman Jana-Helen Juhaste after receiving it in January also landed in the second quarter. This means that €50,000 needs to be subtracted from its first quarter donations totaling €103,825.

Even though Center can take joy in its third quarter donations, the party had to pay €110,000 into state proceeds in July as the cash deposit was also identified as an illicit donation. In September, the party returned €40,287 to the city of Tallinn. The prime minister’s party is also grappling with a claim for €1.02 million that should be returned to OÜ Midfield as an illegal donation.

Hillar Teder has donated a total of €1,109,000 to four partis over the last eight years. Over the years, the lion’s share of his donations has landed in the accounts of the Reform Party and Isamaa.

Teder last donated €50,000 to the Center Party in late 2019. This fact is all the more noteworthy as the businessman did not make a single donation to the party between 2013 and 2019. Center was the only party Teder sponsored in Q3 of 2020.

“Efforts to pursue the Estonian agenda and develop its economy are most successful in the hands of those in power. They make the decisions,” Teder said when asked why he only supports ruling parties.

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