Officials of the Internal Security Service (ISS) on Wednesday morning arrested Tartu Deputy Mayor Valvo Semilarski, member of the Reform Party, and Deputy Mayor Artjom Suvorov, of the Center Party, as suspects in multiple corruption offenses.
According to the suspicion, Semilarski took part in the making of decisions in relation to which he had direct personal economic interests. Participation in the making of such decisions is forbidden by the Anti-corruption Act, which requires that the official concerned withdraw from taking part in such decisions, spokespeople for the South District Prosecutor's Office said.
By this Semilarski committed a violation of a procedural restriction on a particularly large scale within the meaning of the Penal Code. Besides, the prosecutor's office and ISS suspect Semilarski of accepting a bribe and a businessman of giving a bribe to him.
The other deputy mayor, Artjom Suvorov, is suspected of accepting bribes on repeated occasions for assigning financial support to various organizations over a longer period of time. One person is being suspected of giving a bribe to Suvorov.
The criminal investigations concerning Semilarski and Suvorov are not connected with each other.
Margus Gross, specialized prosecutor at the South District Prosecutor's Office, said that the prosecutor's office and the ISS are taking a very serious approach to corrupt actions of officials.
"Deputy mayors, in whom people have special trust, must be guided first and foremost by public interest. It is therefore extremely regrettable that there are reasons to suspect leading officials of one of Estonia's most influential municipalities of corruption offenses," Gross said. "It's not primarily about the sums offered to he deputy mayors, but a problem about principle, which is why we check profoundly all suspicions of corruption related to both officials," the prosecutor said, adding that the suspicions had to do with the two specific officials and on the basis of the evidence gathered to date was not related to any political party.
Jaanus Kann, head of the South district of ISS, said that the investigation has been going on already for some time and the evidence gathered is serious enough to lodge a suspicion against both deputy mayors.
The investigation is being conducted by the ISS and supervised by the South District Prosecutor's Office.
Mayor of Tartu demands resignation of deputy mayors accused of graft
Mayor of Tartu Urmas Klaas announced on Wednesday that he demands the resignation of Valvo Semilarski and Artjom Suvorov as deputy mayors of Tartu in the wake of suspicions of corruption made against them.
Officials of the Internal Security Service (ISS) on Wednesday morning conducted searches at the Tartu Town Hall and declared Deputy Mayor Valvo Semilarski, member of the Reform Party, and Deputy Mayor Artjom Suvorov, of the Center Party, suspects in criminal offenses, spokespeople for the city government said.
«The matter of the suspicion is not known to the city government and therefore we cannot comment on it. We will cooperate fully with the investigating authorities to find out the truth,» Klaas said. «Although it is just a suspicion that has been made at this point and investigation procedures are ongoing, I do not consider it possible for them to continue as deputy mayors and I demand that they resign,» the Reform Party mayor said.
When the circumstances of what actually took place have been established, the city government will conduct its own internal control procedures in parallel to the investigation, Klaas added.