The prosecutor's office has assessed that five criminal episodes in the benefit fraud case of former Tartu deputy mayor Kajar Lember could be terminated, meaning the court would only have to deal with four alleged offenses. Lember's defense thinks most of the case should be announced obsolete.
The prosecutor's office believes that the former deputy mayor applied for various types of support from the Estonian Agricultural Registers and Information Board (ARIB) with the intention of facilitating the economic activities of several individuals and businesses or putting the funds to non-authorized use.
The prosecutor's office initially accused Lember of 19 criminal episodes. When the case was taken into court in the fall of last year, 10 episodes were closed due to the expiration of the alleged offenses. On Friday, South District Prosecutor Margus Gross sent a request to the court to also close five episodes.
Gross told ERR: "The prosecutor's office does not make decisions for the court. When the defense has made their case, the court will make their decision on which episodes will close and which will not."
Benefit fraud cases expire in five years. When the Prosecutor's Office began to investigate the case of Kajar Lember, the court was asked to mortgage Lember's property. The prosecutor believed that this would also stop the limitation period of the case. But recently, the Supreme Court of Estonia said that the limitation period of the crime is only suspended if the property of the accused is seized.
Lember's role in the whole case is not actually that large. The prosecutor's office request also affects three companies and one person in court. The prosecutor's office is reportedly requesting closure of one criminal case for all those involved.
However, the defense's requests go beyond this. A few weeks ago, at the last hearing, defendants requested the partial closure of the criminal case against four people and three companies. Margo Lemetti, Lember's defense lawyer, said that he is not pleased with the prosecutor's office request.
Lemetti said: "Of the remaining four episodes, three are still in legal dispute. The Prosecutor's Office has not agreed with the defense's position that the limitation period is not suspended if the property of a legal person is seized."
Lemetti explained that in his view the limitation period should be suspended for the company whose assets were seized. But if no assets were seized, the limitation period should still be five years.
Which episodes are or are not declared expired, will be revealed on August 4, when the court next meets to discuss the case.
Editor: Kristjan Kallaste