Former top centrist Evelyn Sepp admitted that she donated money the origin of which was unknown to her to the Center Party in 2006. The former politician claimed other members also engaged in the practice but refused to name names.
Sepp’s confession on ETV investigative journalism program «Pealtnägija» does not come as a total bombshell. She first said that such covert funding of parties is a widespread practice in the aftermath of the Silvergate scandal in 2012.
What Sepp did not mention back then was her participation. The allegedly dirty funding of the Center Party has also been suggested by former centrist Tarmo Lausing.
More than a decade later, Sepp claims she does not remember all the details (see interview). She also refuses to point fingers at former fellows. «There is no sense in dropping names. These things are always one person’s word against another’s,» she said.
Donations from before the 2007 Riigikogu elections leave no doubt the economy was booming.
However, it is impossible to draw conclusions as to the contents and origin of donations made by members of the party and other sponsors by looking at them. Regarding donations from that period, ranging from 10,000 to 20,000 kroons, long-time Center Party member, businessman Toomas Sepp was the second biggest sponsor behind businessman Yuri Shehovtsov. Sepp said yesterday that his donations were clean and came out of his own pocket.
Aadu Must also denied making private donations. Must, who has a member of Center’s board prior to the 2007 elections, said that it was his conscience that compelled him to donate nearly 160,000 kroons. «It is a relatively modest part of my income,» Must said.
Must described Evelyn Sepp and Tarmo Lausing as great exaggerators. «Yes, interesting things did happen back then, and more than one party was navigating stormy seas, but there were also more personal donations,» Must said.
Kadri Simson, who served as the party’s secretary general at the time, said yesterday that she has only donated her own money to the party. «I have presumed that is what other sponsors do,» the economy minister said.
Simson added that the Center Party’s statutes include the so-called progressive membership fee rule that requires ministers and MPs to contribute 7 percent of their gross salary as their membership fee since 2005. She suggested this explains regular donations by leading politicians at the time.
Prime Minister Jüri Ratas donated nearly 40,000 kroons in 2006 – one and a half times his monthly salary at the time. Ratas said yesterday that the money came from his salary.
«I have had no knowledge of such things, have none today, nor have I been involved in taking money of unknown origin to the party. If someone has, I believe they are obligated to notify law enforcement,» the PM said.
Velman: I honestly cannot remember
Politician Vladimir Velman, whose donations also stood out at the time, said that all manner of tricks were employed in the early 2000s and no party was exempt. Having heard public information suggests he was among the biggest sponsors, Velman suddenly lost his memory.
«I honestly do not remember there having been anything like that. I also do not remember where I worked at the time or that I ever had that much money in any of my accounts,» he said.
Sponsors who were also members of the party also included Priit Toobal who made several hefty donations to the Center Party in the first three months of 2007. Three of them were over 10,000 kroons.
The sweetest donation Toobal made was 25,500 kroons a month and a half before elections. After this impressive donations rally, Toobal was made secretary general of the party and put in charge of its finances in the second half of 2007.
Interestingly enough, Toobal’s donations came to nothing over the next three years as secretary general. Toobal, who has left politics, refused to comment yesterday.