Saturday, November 20, 2004

Farage gets it wrong

Based on a UKIP press release and comments made by Nigel Farage in the EU parliament last Thursday, our previous posting on the EU commission’s growing embarrassment at the criminal tendencies of its new members alleged that the Estonian anti-fraud commissioner, Siim Kallas – like the French commissioner Jacques "wheel" Barrot – also had a criminal record.

This, according to our UKIP source, related to a financial scandal in 1993 when, while Kallas was at its head, the Bank of Estonia secretly transferred US $10million to a Swiss account as part of a dubious contract in which the Bank was supposed to receive highly improbable dividends from the oil trade.

As the beneficiaries of the $10 million did not bear any liabilities, Estonia lost all the money. Details of this scandal only seeped out three years later, and it took a further four years to put Mr Kallas in the dock, by which time he had long since left the Bank to found his own political party and had now become Minister of Finance.

According to UKIP, he was acquitted of abuse and fraud, thanks in no small part to the fact that his lawyer was a partner in the law firm of the then Justice Minister, who was a member of the party which Kallas had founded. However, we are told, "even this couldn't prevent Kallas from being found guilty of providing false information during the trials."

Actually, that is not quite what happened. According to the Central European Review, Kallas was convicted of the charges, but these were overturned on appeal, all bar one charge of providing false information, which was referred back to the lower courts.

Then, according to the same source, reporting on 30 October 2000, the four-year criminal case against Kallas finally came to a close when the lower court acquitted him of the charge.

Interestingly, the prosecutor in the case had decided to appeal, but Estonia's chief prosecutor, Raivo Sepp, overruled his deputy, took over the case and decided to end the appellate process. Sepp said he trusted the judicial system for making its judgements in this long-running case.

In the case, Kallas was represented by high-profile lawyer Indrek Teder, who happened to be the law partner of Justice Minister Märt Rask. All of them are members of the Reform Party, of which Kallas was the leader, from which readers are free to draw their own conclusions. As it stands, though, Kallas has not been convicted of any crime and thus does not have a criminal record.

It is understood that UKIP’s Nigel Farage, having made his initial accusation in the EU parliament was scheduled to strengthen his "revelations" on Kallas’s record this coming Monday. However, we note also that when he was challenged on the veracity of his accusations about M. Barrot, Farage claimed that he had made the comments, "having researched the case very carefully."

He went on to say: "I will make it perfectly clear: if it is proved that what I have said is wrong, if it is proved that my research is flawed, then of course, in those circumstances, I would withdraw the remarks and apologise wholeheartedly."

Clearly, his "research" on Kallas has not been conducted with the same degree of care. We now trust that he will take a second look at his "research" and concentrate instead on his more accurate accusations about Barrot. In his own interest, he may also wish to consider whether he should withdraw his remarks about Kallas and "apologise wholeheartedly".

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