Estonian PM resigns over corruption allegations

Estonia’s Prime Minister Juri Ratas has stepped down from his post in connection with corruption allegations against his Centre Party.

Mr Ratas’ resignation has been accepted by President Kersti Kaljulaid.

Announcing the move on Wednesday, the 42-year-old Ratas said he wanted to take political responsibility for the allegations and allow for their clarification.

According to the Estonian constitution, Mr Ratas’ move automatically leads to the resignation of the entire government.

Head of State, Ms Kaljulaid now has two weeks to nominate a candidate for the office of head of government.

She has announced that she wants to entrust opposition leader Kaja Kallas with forming a government.

The current government remains in office until a new cabinet is established.

Judicial authorities in the Baltic EU member state previously launched investigations into a state aid loan to a real estate project, according to the prosecutor general, Taavi Pern.

The investigation was spurred by a nearly 40 million euro (48-million-dollar) loan granted by Kredex in the middle of last year for the development of a real estate project in Tallinn.

The much-discussed decision is said to have been preceded by unauthorised agreements.

A large donation to the party ahead of elections is said to also have been tied to the state loan decision, according to the prosecutor general.

Four people were taken into custody on Tuesday. Suspects include the party secretary general, an adviser to the finance minister, and a real estate developer who has often donated to the party.

Pern said there was no reason to suggest, however, that Mr Ratas himself had any knowledge of what was going on.

Mr Ratas has stressed that he knew nothing of the financing of the loan and that no guilt had yet been established.

However, he acknowledged the proceedings inevitably cast a shadow over everyone involved.

Mr Ratas had governed Estonia since April 2019 with his Centre Party in a three-party alliance with the right-wing populist Estonian Conservative People’s Party and the conservative Isamaa party.

He has served as head of government since the end of 2016..(dpa/NAN)

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