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European anti-corruption watchdog eyes Estonia

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(TALLINN) - Delegates from the Council of Europe's GRECO anti-corruption watchdog will visit Estonia next week to focus on a spate of allegations about irregularities in party funding.

"The GRECO visit was agreed ... before a former member of parliament alleged Estonia's governing Reform party was involved in money laundering," Asso Prii, head of Transparency International Estonia told AFP on Thursday.

Prii said he welcomed the timely visit by the independent European body focused on evaluating levels of corruption among members of parliament, judges and prosecutors.

Last week prosecutors in Estonia launched a probe into allegations that the country's governing centre-right Reform Party had received donations from murky sources for years.

Reform Party member and ex-member of parliament Silver Meikar publicly claimed he funneled money of unknown origin into party coffers on several occasions in 2009-10.

Meikar also alleged he was asked to do so by then Reform Party secretary general Kristen Michal, who became Estonia's justice minister in the spring of 2011.

Both Michal and current Reform Party leader, Prime Minister Andrus Ansip, have flatly denied the claims, but several powerful businessmen and politicians have admitted their own involvement in activities similar to those described by Meikar.

Estonia's Finance Minister Jurgen Ligi slammed Meikar this week, saying his public revelations about Reform Party funding "should be considered crimes against Estonia and its national security".

Calling Meikar "a liar", Ansip said this week he has complete confidence in his justice minister.

A country of 1.3 million, Estonia broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991 and went on to join NATO and the European Union in 2004 and the eurozone in 2011.

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