Estonia’s Minister of Justice resigns amidst corruption allegations

Estonia’s Minister of Justice, Kalle Laanet, resigned on Saturday amidst corruption allegations that have surfaced in the country. Laanet announced his decision to resign following deliberations with Prime Minister Kaja Kallas. He will continue to serve as Minister of Justice until the Prime Minister appoints a new candidate.

Local media has brought to light two specific allegations concerning Laanet’s conduct during his time in office. It is alleged that he has been renting an apartment in central Tallinn belonging to his stepson and using ministry funds for reimbursement. The allegations suggest that during his terms as Minister of Defence and most recently as Minister of Justice, he regularly sought and received reimbursements from ministry funds to cover the expenses related to the apartment. In total, government funds received for this purpose amounted to €12,000 ($13,077) during his time in office.

Laanet’s actions became apparent following the introduction of a new regulation in Estonia in early 2023. The regulation mandates that officials seeking housing cost reimbursements confirm that their lease agreements do not involve associated individuals as defined by the Anti-Corruption Act. The term’ associated person’ encompasses an official’s biological, adopted or step-child, as well as any company in which the associated person maintains a minimum of ten percent ownership interest or holds a manager position.

The entity in question is the real estate company OÜ JKG, owned by Laanet’s stepson, who is the sole shareholder. Laanet has refuted all allegations and has maintained his innocence. However, the allegations by local media have prompted the Central Criminal Police to investigate the matter. 

The second allegation involves Estonia’s Prosecutor General Andres Parmas. In the context of a public dispute, Laanet has been accused of systematically meddling in criminal proceedings and pressuring Parmas to resign. Laanet has denied these claims, asserting that he merely raised general inquiries regarding the prosecutor’s office. During a recent interview on Thursday, Prosecutor General Parmas addressed the allegations and disclosed that he had recorded his conversations with Laanet, not disclosing in what form.

Laanet has served as Minister of Justice since April 2023 and is a member of the Estonian liberal-democratic Reform Party. Prior to his engagement as Minister of Justice, he served as Minister of Defence from 2021 to 2022.