Document scam may result in citizenship revocation
Health and Labor Minister Jevgeni Ossinovski said at a government press conference that the false document scam that also comprised four Estonian Police and Border Guard employees, involves hundreds of cases.
Ossinovski, in deputy prime minister role since Taavi Rõivas was away on a foreign visit, said that the people who received Estonian passports through the scam, will probably have their citizenship revoked.
Ossinovski said that although the government has never used this right so far, Estonian laws permit to strip citizenship from those who received it based on false information.
Ossinovski declined to disclose the detailed information from the investigation, such as the amount of bribes.
The prosecutor said to ERR previously that the “document mafia” had connections to Russian citizens, but Ossinovski said that currently, there is no indication that the scam had any links to foreign state institutions.
“It was an internal criminal group and as far as we know, no foreign country has participated in the scam,” Ossinovski said. He also confirmed that the detained Police and Border Guard workers have now been fired and have all pleaded guilty.
Estonian police and Prosecution Office disclosed on Wednesday, following a seven-month long preliminary investigation, that 12 people were involved in what is believed to be the biggest document scam the country has seen for years.
The suspects allegedly issued official documents that need state approval, such as language test certificates, living permits, documentation necessary for obtaining citizenship, and medical certificates.
The scam involved forgery, entering false information and accomplices who used fake identity.
The main suspect is a 65-year-old woman, who was allegedly the ringleader, recruiting members for the mafia-style group.
Four Police and Border Guard Board personnel are not suspected of being among the organizers, but issued information regarding applications,made queries in the databases, accepted applications based on falsified information and issued documents based on them in exchange for bribes. Of the officials suspected, two work in the service hall and two are specialists.
According to leading state prosecutor Steven-Hristo Evestus, ten members of the criminal group were women. Evestus said that the evidence collected so far shows that the suspects were extensively secretive in their activities, using all manner of techniques to conceal the illegal activity and its traces. “Every suspect had their own distinct role and significance within the chain,” Evestus said.
Raul Vahtra, head of the Police and Border Guard Board’s Office of Internal Control, said the criminal activity was discovered as a result of information gathered and analysed by the Office of Internal Control.