Investigation into TalTech's Nurkse Department leads to criminal suspicion ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

TalTech
TalTech Source: TalTech

On May 13, investigators at the Criminal Bureau of the North Prefecture searched the office of an employee at Tallinna Tehnikaülikool's (TalTech) Ragnar Nurkse Department, which led to criminal suspicions of benefit fraud being filed against the employee, daily Postimees writes (link in Estonian).

The suspicion was filed in relation to the active criminal case, which began on August 22 after an article in Postimees reported, based on evidence from Keegan McBride, who worked at the Ragnar Nurkse institute, that a project financed with money from the European Union called OpenGovIntelligence (OGI) paid almost a third of the project's money to scientists not involved with the project.

McBride's recordings contained reasoning from parties involved that the money had been set aside so the department could maintain staff. The suspect was responsible for the OGI project and ordered the distribution of project funding.

Leader of the investigation, District Attorney Marek Soomaa said the goal of the criminal suspicion is to discover if money from the European Commission was used purposefully. "We've interrogated witnesses and been in communication with other countries. Enough evidence is collected to file a primary suspicion," he said.

Suspicions currently cover the salary of six scientists (David Duenas Cid, Ralf-Martin Soe, Amirouche Moktefi, Wolfgang Drechsler, Carlote Perez and Erik Reinert). The initial article also wrote of incorrect payments of project money to six scientists.

Story broke last August

Postimees broke the story in August last year that in 2016, the European Commission allocated €267,500 from the Horizon 2020 program to the Ragnar Nurkse Department's OGI project.

Postimees wrote the RNI had submitted false information to the European Commission, artificially inflating Taltech's working hours, including money being paid as wages to individuals.

While TalTech cleared itself of wrongdoing last November, it is also subject to a European Commission audit, as well as the education ministry's investigation.

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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