Police arrest Tallinna TV staff, CEO and editor suspected of embezzlement (1)
The Central Criminal police arrested CEO of Tallinna TV (TTV) as well as one of the channel’s editors on Wednesday morning. They are suspected of having embezzled a few hundred thousand euros.
According to information available to ERR, both CEO Toomas Lepp and editor Mart Ummelas are suspected of embezzlement. Beyond Lepp and Ummelas, two more suspects were arrested. Lepp’s production firm, Videomeedia Extra OÜ, is also involved in the case.
The arrests were made in the course of a criminal investigation that has been going on since late June this year. The Central Criminal Police is investigating a large embezzlement case involving Tallinna TV, a station started by the city under mayor Edgar Savisaar.
The homes as well as the offices of the suspects were searched on Wednesday.
According to the suspicions against him, Lepp has had the city’s channel pay monthly sums to a company connected to him, without delivering any services. Current estimates assume the damage to have been a few hundred thousand euros.
Prosecutor: Suspects indirectly embezzled taxpayer money
Prosecutor Leelet Kivioja said on Wednesday that the investigation of suspected embezzlement of municipal property had been one of the priorities of the police as well as the prosecutor’s office. Tallinna TV, legally a foundation, belonged to the city of Tallinn, and with that fact, the money had indirectly been taken from the taxpayer.
The embezzlement had been continuous, and gone on for years, Kivioja added.
The supervisory board of Tallinna TV announced that it was going to discuss the matter next week. Chairman of the board Allan Alaküla told ERR that he only learned about what had been going on this morning, and that he had been called to Lepp’s office at 9:45 a.m. on Wednesday, where the police had explained the case to him.
Alaküla said he had asked them about the details of the suspicions against Lepp and Ummelas, but received no answer. In the interim, Tallinna TV will be run by management member Toomas Raag.
The TV channel was started on the initiative of Tallinn’s city council in 2009. Though its mission was specified as covering life in Tallinn, the channel has widely been seen as a mouthpiece of the Center Party.
Allaküla is a former editor-in-chief of the party’s own weekly paper, “Kesknädal”. The remainder of the channel’s supervisory board consists exclusively of Center Party members, most of which have clearly sided with Savisaar in the past.