Neinar Seli, Estonia's own oligarch

08.11.2012, 09:40

Reform Party and its major donor Neinar Seli who is hoping to become the president of the Estonian Olympic Committee are clearly disturbed by recent statements made by Juhan Parts, Minister of Economic Affairs and leader of ruling coalition partner IRL, Äripäev wrote on November 7.

Parts namely said that if Seli were to become head of EOC, he could on longer remain chairman of the supervisory board of state-owned Port of Tallinn that belongs to the area of government of the Ministry of Economy and Minister Parts in person.

Parts has said that since Port of Tallinn is the main sponsor of EOC and last year donated 50,000 euros to the Olympic movement in Estonia, it would be unethical for Seli to chair both the donor and the recipient organizations as there would be a conflict of interests.

Parts has said that if Seli were to become president of EOC and stay on in the Port of Tallinn council, the company should terminate its sponsorship with EOC.

Seli himself has said that he had no plans to step down as chairman of the supervisory board of Port of Tallinn even if he was elected president of EOC.

The situation is tense because Reform Party and IRL have a silent understanding that Port of Tallinn is the business of the Reform Party and the party has always acted aggressively when Parts has attempted to make changes in the company’s supervisory board or has been interfering in its other matters.

Seli is definitely no stranger to conflicts of interest because Port of Tallinn has donated thousands of euros to Estonian Defence Industry Association, an NGO in which Seli himself is a board member.

In 2008, Port of Tallinn gave 75,000 euros to PR agency Hamburg ja Partnerid for organising a conference at the time when the same agency is handling PR for Port of Tallinn and Neinar Seli himself.

Nool: EOC president is voted by associations who depend on Port of Tallinn
Erki Nool who is a Olympic gold medallist and current MP for IRL, says that there are warning cases like that. He recalls that in 2005 Port of Tallinn withdrew its sponsorship from the Estonian Track and Field Association when Sven Mikser beat Seli in the race for the association’s chairmanship.

Nool’s statement was confirmed by Mikser who was president of the Estonian Track and Field Association between 2004 and 2006. According to Mikser, while in 2004 Port of Tallinn had donated about 130,000 euros to the association, it donated nothing to the association in 2005 after Seli had lost to Mikser.

“This is a warning example to sports associations and is definitely influencing those associations that are being sponsored by Port of Tallinn,” said Nool.
One surprising ally of Neinar Seli in the vote for the new president of the Estonian Olympic Committee is Edgar Savisaar, Mayor of Tallinn and chairman of the main opposition Centre Party.

Speaking in an interview in Raadio Kuku, Savisaar who is also chairman of the Estonian Iceskating Association, said that he supports Seli over his competitor Madis Kallas who is sports adviser in the Saare county government.

“Our association is giving its vote for Seli because there is no point to give this post to young and inexperienced people,” said Savisaar who is usually up in arms against anything that involves Reform Party.

Savisaar’s statement indicates that Seli can safely count on the support of sports associations that are controlled by Centre Party members.

When asked if he would resign from Port of Tallinn’s supervisory board if elected president of EOC, Seli said that he wanted to complete in Port of Tallinn what he had started. He also added that Port of Tallinn had strict regulations about sponsorship which rule out any conflict of interest.