Parish leaders used to lack of control are being targeted by police, and criminal proceedings are coming down like a pouring rain. Central Criminal Police corruption crimes bureau chief Mati Ombler says spread of corruption depends on attitude towards the vice in society.
Parish governments come under Central Criminal Police scrutiny
-How many are the criminal procedures initiated this year regarding local government cadres?
This year, half of the criminal procedures send by us to prosecutor’s office have to do with local governments or entities under these.
Triggering a procedure doesn’t mean it reaches the court. Therefore, it makes more sense to talk about the proceedings the pre-trial procedure has been concluded by the police and the case handed to prosecutor’s office.
-Thus the criminal procedures regarding Konguta and Tartu Parishes aren’t included yet in the dozen?
These are not at the prosecutor’s office yet.
Unlawful use of money and accepting of bribes haven’t gone anywhere, in local governments. It’s still a problem. The message by media when covering the cases ought to have been understood by all employed by parish governments, but alas there has been no effect at all. Again and again, courts keep convicting local government employees in embezzlement of assets. The snowball keeps on snowballing.
-Central Criminal Police and corruption investigation as its task were only restored a few years ago. Security police was doing a good job with corruption cases at state power and major local governments, but it seems they lacked personnel to deal with corruption in smaller parishes. It feels like the police couldn’t really get a systemic grip.
This is true. Corruption is an area requiring systemic approach. Now, we have the corruption crimes bureau at the police mainly dealing with corruption crimes. With each passing year, our operations increase in effectiveness thus leading to exposure of the next crimes.
-Have you divided the tasks with security police so they deal with the major corruption cases and larger local governments, and you tackle the smaller ones where the leaders have thus far felt quite safe?
The tasks are prescribed by a governmental regulation which split up the tasks quite specifically. (From the summer of 2007, only six major local governments are for security police to investigate – N.N.).
-Feels like the people in the small places aren’t too disturbed by the anti-corruption battle. At least, judging by election results.
That’s absolutely right. People have a short memory: again and again they keep re-electing to councils people who have been convicted in corruption.
-Regrettably, the warm and immediate handshake by a parish elder is better understood than the emptying of abstract parish coffers.
Seems so. Also, perhaps the voter has not heard or read the news. A lot depends on how the society perceives corruption: if in a village it is considered normal that parish elder buys parish services from his own company, then the behaviour is difficult to terminate.
-What strikes the eye with your criminal procedures is that much of the fiddling has to do with fuel. Plus of course the deals with one’s very self or family.
On a large scale, fuel is tanked into personal vehicles or such as belong to kinfolks. Local governmental vehicles are used for private purposes.
As related to fuel, we are not investigating the one-off minor offences but systemic cases of repeated embezzlement of fuel.
-Is fuel all that you catch? Nothing bigger?
There are the bigger offences, too. For the most part, there will be decisions and contracts favouring related firms or friends and relatives.
-Is it sometimes the case that you go to a local government suspecting something and while you look at the documents or talk to the people something else gets unearthed?
It does. New facts come up and hints are collected, leading to other offences.
People can e-mail hints to us to email@example.com or calling to the automatic receiver at +372 612 3657. Year after year the hints are increasing in number but it might be more. We are interested in every bit and piece of information.
-Do the criminal cases rather result from hints by the people, or have you started to work through issues based on your own data?
Up to now, few proceedings have resulted from hints. We are not hoping on hints and applications, e need to find our own topics for investigation. By nature, corruption is concealed activity. We must sniff it out.
-Obviously, in many local governments there is a feverish search for who told the police. In majority of the cases, then – no one did?
Yes. The local witch hunt reflects the values at governments and mentality of the cadre. It seems they think it a virtue of nobody says anything and the dishonest people could keep on cheating.
-The local leaders long at power seem to think they have arisen slightly above the law. Have you noticed that?
This may indeed be a danger when elected for multiple terms.
From ordering work from oneself to outright embezzlement
Pirita city district government, Tallinn
Two officials and three others suspected in infringement exceeding €40,00 regarding decision concerning own company hired to maintain changing rooms on the beach.
Progress: criminal case sent to prosecutor’s office which will decide regarding forwarding it to court.
North-Tallinn city district government
On September 2nd offices were searched regarding potentially fake invoices and payments based of these.
Progress: suspicion presented, not in prosecutor’s office as yet.
Charges stated former parish elder Valeri Kukk desired to make money on repairs of a social apartment as firm related to him was invited for tender and won. Invoices were falsified and the sum overblown while his own father renovated the apartment for less than half the price.
Progress: Mr Kukk convicted on October 6th and appealed to circuit court.
Employed till 2014 as parish hating facility Õru Soojus director, Kalle Tiideberg in 2011–2014 embezzled heating oil for at least €21,978.
Progress: compromise procedure, convicted.
Leaving work, former parish elder Jelena Umbleja grabbed along parish property: a mobile phone, car tyres, and two memory sticks causing an assessed €600 in damage. Also, she took official documents home and hid these from investigation till searches in February.
Progress: found guilty at Tartu County Court, fined €4,460.
Former parish elder suspected in embezzlement of money and fuel, official fraud and falsification of documents. An employee suspected in assisting him.
Progress: crime suspicion filed.
Deputy parish elder embezzled money belonging to a disabled young man on parish support via the latter’s debit card.
Progress: compromise procedure, found guilty on October 9th.
Suspicion says former public utility firm board member favoured subcontractor who offered bribes, since last February till this March.
Progress: suspicion presented to receiver and giver of bribes.
Parish official suspected in falsifying audit documents.
Progress: procedure reached payment of liability.
Source: prosecutor’s office