Misdemeanor proceedings brought against then Minister of Education Mailis Reps (Center) in November in connection with use of an official vehicle for private trips have been reclassified as criminal.
The police said on November 24 last year that misdemeanor proceedings have been launched based on the section of the Anti-Corruption Act on corruptive use of public resources (KVS § 17). While the Prosecutor's Office found no elements of a possible criminal offense back then, things have changed two and a half months later.
Head of the Central Criminal Police's corruption crime bureau Ats Kübarsepp said that detectives have collected evidence on possible misuse of ministry assets since November.
"The investigation revealed indications of a crime, which is why we will continue ascertaining the circumstances in criminal procedure. The investigation is tied to information previously covered by the media," Kübarsepp said.
State prosecutor Denis Tšasovskih said that the prosecution is looking into possible embezzlement of ministry property.
"Previously launched proceedings will continue in the phase of evidence collection to verify a criminal offense suspicion. Official suspicions have not been brought at this time," the prosecutor added.
Daily Õhtuleht reported on November 17 that then Minister of Education Mailis Reps misused ministry property and labor when she had her driver ferry her children to and from school and hobby school. It later turned out that Reps had taken her ministry car to a vacation in Croatia without officially being on holiday.
While Reps said she would not resign in the early days of the scandal, she changed her mind and said she would return to the Riigikogu on November 20.
Reps played an instrumental role in forming Estonia's new government as Center's chief negotiator.
Mailis Reps has been a member of the Center Party since 1998 and is currently deputy chairman of the coalition party. She has been discussed as a potential Center presidential candidate.
On Tuesday afternoon Reps released a statement that said she could not offer further clarifications at this time or comment on the proceedings. "I have not been provided with any information or explanation about any episodes or proceedings that led to this decision by the prosecution," she said.
Reps added that, as a politician, she has always known that special attention is paid to her actions, that she must comply with the law, but also that the Estonian people have an expectation of justice.
She said she took political responsibility and resigned from the position. "I will cooperate fully with investigators and the prosecution to this end," she said.
Editor: Marcus Turovski