Former secret service staff handed jail terms for embezzlement ({{commentsTotal}})

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The Estonian Information Board's HQ in Tallinn.
The Estonian Information Board's HQ in Tallinn. Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Harju County Court today found five former Information Board employees guilty of embezzlement over 12 years, and four of the five also guilty of revealing state secrets.

The names of Sergei Bõstrov and Pavel Kotkin, both long-term Information Board staff members, had been revealed before, now the names of the others were also published as Ines Piibeleht, Sven Randlane and Lauri Vihula.

Vihula was only found guilty of embezzlement, and Bõstrov was also charged with handling a small quantity of cocaine.

According to the Prosecutor's Office, the five worked in one unit, led by Bõstrov, which had access to Information Board cash and assets. The sum is more than 600,000 euros, and property and assets of the guilty party have been seized. The funds were meant for buying information, and the embezzlement took place between 2002-2014.

The revealing of state secrets charge concerns documents revealed to third parties who had no need for classified state information, but according to the prosecution, Estonia's security was not harmed.

Bõstrov was handed a four-year, six-month prison sentence, Kotkin will have to spend 11 months in jail, with a three-year suspended sentence. Randlane and Piibeleht will both be imprisoned for a little over six months with a longer suspended sentence. Vihula escaped incarceration, but will still serve a two-year, seven-month suspended sentence.

The four men and one women agreed with the charges and cooperated with the investigation.

The case was made public at the end of May with Rainer Saks, the head of the service, saying they themselves turned to the Internal Security Service (ISS). He said the crime was discovered in a routine check and it is the first such instance in the authority's history.

"We have now defused all setbacks and damages. Currently there are no serious problems," Saks said, adding that the mechanism to detect such violations has been updated and cases like that will not take place again.

Experts were surprised by the agency going public with the case. The Information Board has a far lower profile than the ISS. The ISS itself has also made internal crimes public, such as cases of officials selling secrets to Russia.

The previous version of the story did not say the guilty former Information Board members accepted the charges and cooperated with authorities during the investigation.

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