Private detectives behold business boom on horizon

Liis Velsker
, reporter
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There are no private detectives in Estonia, as if. Even so, the third attempt to regulate the market as prescribed by coalition treaty has created quite a stir. Some smell the hairy hand of major security companies and vested business interests. Others hope the work will get the more exciting. 

In February 29th interior ministry sent interest groups a letter inquiring about how many private detectives there might be in Estonia and how the domain ought to be regulated.

A web search will yield no detective bureaus. For the most part, they operate as legal assistance and consultation companies and people offering private detective services include lots of former policemen and investigators now in the business.

On such is Ius Dicere, an information and consultation bureau partly owned by the legendary police chief Koit Pikaro. Among other services, it offers stuff like collection and processing of information. A former drug superintendent, Kalev Mõtus has in his time operated a law office bearing his own name; now, teamed up with Indrek Jõgi – once a border guard – he now runs a legal assistance firm HI Kala Consult.

Ius Dicere chief Reigo Kala said that when they discussed the issue at the company, they definitely developed doubts about the timing of the third round with the law. They fear the large security companies just want to expand their business.

«Probably, the law will not meet the expectations of the individual; rather, the assets-related expectations of certain corporate enterprises,» noted Mr Kala, a former criminal policeman himself.

The twilight zone job

Riigikogu constitutional committee member Andres Anvelt (Soc Dems) is supportive of regulating the activities currently in the gray area. «If a thing exists and it is bordering on people’s fundamental rights and freedoms, it should definitely be regulated as otherwise we leave it in twilight and nothing good happens in twilight,» he said.

According to Mr Anvelt, such services surely exist in the society and will not go anywhere. «Actually, there are dozens and dozens and dozens providers on the market,» said the former justice minister, a lengthy police career under his belt. He supposes that the existing private detectives straddle the fence between what is and isn’t allowed, partly violating the law.

Meanwhile, Mr Anvelt agrees that a victim should have the opportunity to officially have recourse to a private detective and ask him to find out who stole his car, say. «Not someplace around the corner where sometimes one cannot tell the difference if it’s a crook or consultant,» he noted regarding the current uncertainty.

Detective bureau Pinker Albert head Margus Eensoo assured us they are into nothing that would violate the current law; rather, they offer various legal assistance and debt counselling services. Mainly, said he, people ask for information about their business partner or some family member, and information to be collected about criminal cases related to the clients.

In Finland, where private detective market is regulated, at least half the cases are about finding out the partner’s unfaithfulness. Mr Eensoo thinks Estonia should not go down that path though there would definitely be the demand. Thus, he remains sceptical regarding the law in pipeline.

A CEO at the foundation Kadunud (Lost), Aare Rüütel is of the opinion that a law regulating the detective works would be badly needed. «This adds a considerable amount of opportunities to delve into matters,» he said.

«I have a company myself which operates in investigations, where already today I deal with all that they want to regulate and I ask money for it and there is no problem with that. It’s just that the options are few.»

Mr Rüütel has a sting of firms registered to his name which deal with seeking for lost people. One of these, OÜ Losttreasure, has also specified seeking people’s assets, buying information, collection of debts.

According to Mr Rüütel, the investigative bureau is also involved with searching for witnesses for court cases, as well as finding heirs. According to his vision, the state could as well outsource from them the service of locating wanted criminals.

Surveillance right not desired

Mr Rüütel says almost everything is currently possible with help of public registers, but it is complicated to the absurd. For instance, anyone may have recourse to population register, pay €5 and ask is some definite individual has a mother and a father. «If they should answer that yes but they are dead, then I have a new question: do they have sisters or brothers. But for that I will again need to pay five euros. This is ridiculous,» said Mr Rüütel.

He thinks private detectives should be able to collect data which will afterwards be considered in the proceeding. For instance, a private investigator may currently ask people to show the trunk of their car, but to gather hairs or fibres from there he may not.

«I would like to do that even now. Like in the Võru case (Markkus Ansberg who went missing in Võru, in October last year – edit) I would have forced some cars into the parking lot and said until Markkus is found these will stay here. Perhaps I will need to inspect these afterwards, as they have participated in the events of that night,» explained Mr Rüütel.

Also, he thinks private detectives could perform inspection of the site, take pictures, pick up material, and hear out witnesses. At that, Mr Rüütel is not in favour of private detectives granted right of surveillance.

«As things stand, if we discover something, some witness of some place with some information, we cannot go to get it ourselves. We can show the location to an official and say that there may be something there which would probably be vital, and then we will all wait whether he will show up there at all,» said Mr Rüütel, adding that otherwise they may be accused of damaging evidence or affecting witnesses.

Mr Rüütel recalled the incident of Darja found dead in Narva in December where, after the police had left, a Postimees journalist found the other sneaker of the child on the scene.

To gather evidence

Kaupo Kuusik, an addressee of the letter from interior ministry and CEO of security companies association, admitted that security business features lots of people with police background and the companies would have the knowhow to offer private detective services, but they currently cannot do that.   

Pursuant to the Security Service Act in force, security companies are forbidden to provide private detective services i.e. security and private detective business cannot be combined. «For us, this is questionable. I think these services definitely should not be mutually exclusive,» said Mr Kuusik.

«With a good and diligent security company which provided its clients broad-based services, then when a client suddenly needs the services of a private detective, he will have a good partner where to ask for that,» he said.

In one thing, almost all agree: if private detectives are granted extra rights, their activity ought then to be licensed and they should undergo supervision.

Mr Anvelt said that a detective’s own penal background and competence should definitely be searched out. «Thereby, we cut the options of him selling the information to the side,» he said.

Potential conflicts of interests should also be avoided – thus, an individual should not be working simultaneously in police and a private detective bureau. «That would be a very gross conflict of interests,» said Mr Anvelt.

The Ius Dicere chief Reigo Kala says it is important that the licence would be issued to a private detective personally, as in a large corporation responsibility gets lost.  

But if a law is created, he says it should grant expanded rights to private detectives. «The law makes no sense if covert photographs are not allowed in public space, which is a much needed service to collect evidence. The same with recording etc,» listed Mr Kala.

«Naturally, we are also having to enforce the rights of clients and expected justice during criminal proceedings,» said Mr Kala, asked about their daily activities. He pointed to the general knowledge that due to limited resources police institutions are unable to perform all procedures in a competent and timely manner, but that cannot be solved by creating a private detective law.

Aare Rüütel said his vision of a private detective is to be a helper to police investigator. He said that in criminal proceedings, the accused and his lawyer might be entitled to have such helper also. «A helper is created, whose work either of the parties could buy,» he specified.

Mr Rüütel thinks the law planned should let private detectives pose as representatives of relatives of missing persons. At the moment, in half the instances a private detective who accompanied family members to police station is left to wait outside.

Mr Rüütel predicted that as the law is passed, initially there would be a surge of new private detectives. «Well this is fun. Just imagine, what a cool job and you can even get money for it,» smiled the one-time K-komando special police unit guy.


What services do they might offer?

  • Risk Management: Risk analysis; inspection of insured objects in compliance with environmental, health, safety and security regulations.
  • Claim handling: Scene examination; technical examination of damaged objects; determining the causes of damage incurred; interviews with persons in any way involved in damage cases.
  • Investigative services: Gathering additional evidence; background checks and identification of links between the persons involved; identification and interviews of potential witnesses; conducting experiments at the scene; laboratory and IT research; compiling all findings and should our client wish so, writing an official letter to support the request for a criminal investigation to be; cooperating with law enforcement institutions and staying abreast with ongoing criminal investigations.
  • Internal security: Prevention, detection and obstruction of internal or external attacks upon the property, staff or trade secrets of companies.
  • Training: Delivery of training courses on transport technology, technical examination and insurance investigation.

Source: HI Kala Consult