Estonian Navy chief resigns, Sakala commander requests transfer following discovery of contraband liquor and tobacco
Estonian Minister of Defence Hannes Hanso accepted the letter of resignation of Navy Capt. Sten Sepper, chief of the Estonian Navy, and the Navy’s leadership granted the transfer request of Lt. Cmdr. Ott Laanemets in connection with liquor and tobacco smuggling recently discovered on the Estonian minehunter EML Sakala (M314).
Sepper submitted his letter of resignation on Tuesday, taking responsibility for the liquor and tobacco smuggling on the Sakala discovered on Nov. 11, spokespeople for the Ministry of Defense said.
“The Navy chief has decided to resign due to the damage to reputation accompanying the unacceptable event, irrespective of where the opened criminal case and official investigation will lead,” said Hanso, adding that an Estonian officer must be prepared to take full responsibility for what is happening within their area of responsibility.
Sepper will continue his service as a senior staff officer in the Estonian Defence Forces’ headquarters.
The commander of the Sakala, Lt. Cmdr. Laanemets, requested to be transferred to another post in connection with the same case. Navy leadership granted his wish and Laanemets, who began active service in 2000 and became commander of the Sakala in August 2015, will continue service at the naval school.
Contraband tobacco, liquor found on board
Last week, officers of the Customs Department of the Estonian Tax and Customs Board (MTA) found 56 cases of cigarettes and around 1,000 liters of strong liquor, all of it without revenue stamps, on board the Estonian minehunter Sakala. Officials did not reveal the country of origin of the contraband goods. The MTA was notified about the case by Navy command.
The agency opened an investigation to determine to whom the illegal goods belonged and whether they were dealing with a misdemeanor or a crime. The discovered amount exceeded the maximum limit of a misdemeanor five-fold.
Since there were more than 30 people on the Sakala at the time of the check, it was being investigated to whom the liquor and cigarettes belonged, a spokesperson for the agency told BNS last week. The main objective of the investigation is to find out whether a crew member owned contraband liquor and cigarettes in an amount that would make the matter a crime, he explained.
The Estonian minehunter Sakala is part of the Standing NATO Mine Countermeasures Group 1 (SNMCMG1).