Police detain Tallinn hospital doctors, board member on bribery suspicions

East-Tallinn Central Hospital's polyclinic. Source: Martin Dremljuga/ERR

Two doctors from the East-Tallinn Central Hospital (ITK) were detained by the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) on Tuesday, on suspicion of receiving a bribe, along with hospital board member Ralf Allikvee.

One other hospital employee, plus a representative of a private sector company, were also detained, BNS reports.

The four are suspected of accepting a bribe and favoring on supplier during the procurement process for a new medical device, according to BNS. A representative of the company providing the equipment has also been detained.

The swoop follows searches on Tuesday of suspects workplaces and residencies, as well as questioning both of them and witnesses. Two suspects were released Tuesday, BNS reports; the remainder are to be released once procedural requirements have been fulfilled, with the prosecutor's office not directing any suspects to be taken into custody.

Investigation continues Wednesday

Special Prosecutor Leelet Kivioja said that questioning and evidence gathering started Tuesday and will continue Wednesday.

"The purpose of further procedures is to obtain an exhaustive overview of how the suspected procurement was carried out. Once all the circumstances have been established, the prosecution can decide whether or not to prosecute," Kivioja said.

Head of the corruption crimes office of the PPA's Central Criminal Police, Mati Ombler, said that effort is needed to ensure fair conduct in public procurement, adding a level playing field for all when it comes to competition conditions would aid this.

"Giving preference to someone is misusing public funds and, in addition, an honest business environment will suffer as a result of [this type of] corruption. Therefore, both the private and public sectors need to be guided by higher values, and take the necessary measures to curb corruption," Ombler said.

ITK's supervisory board held an extraordinary meeting Wednesday, opting to suspend board chair Ralf Allikvee's tenure indefinitely.

The board appointed head of treatment analysis division Ene Halling as acting board chair, according to BNS.

Economic affairs minister: Important to avoid disruption

"It is currently important for the management board at ITK to make sure peace and trust is maintained, and to make the necessary adjustments to minimize the impact on patients," Aas said, according to BNS.

"If the absence of doctors detained during investigative procedures directly affects the procedure or consultation of a patient, the hospital will contact each patient personally," he added, noting a hope that clarity on the allegations would arrive soon.

The corruption crimes office at the PPA's Central Criminal Police division are carrying out the criminal proceedings, under the direction of the North District Prosecutor's Office, BNS reports. PPA investigations are generally directed by the prosecutor's office.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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