Police investigating Saaremaa shopping mall multi-million loan details

Artist's rendering of the WOW center before it was constructed. It opened in spring 2020.
Artist's rendering of the WOW center before it was constructed. It opened in spring 2020. Source: puhkaeestis.ee

Police have been conducting searches and investigations on the island of Saaremaa, in connection with suspected corruption surrounding a multi-million-euro loan to a shopping mall in the island's capital, Kuressaare. The mall's owner denies any wrong-doing.

The search, at the WOW experience and shopping mall was in its second day Wednesday, BNS reports.

In line with standard practice in Estonia, the search is being directed by the prosecutor's office.

Liivi Reinhold, spokesperson for the prosecutor's office western district, said that: "I can confirm that officers of the Central Criminal Police carried out work yesterday and today in Saaremaa in relation with a criminal case in which suspicions of a fraud are being checked."

The spokesperson declined to reveal the location or individuals involved, but daily Postimees reports that the WOW center was developed by businessman Tullio Liblik, while business daily Äripaev said a €3.4 million loan received from the Rural Development Foundation (MES) was at the heart of the issue though the prosecutor's office later denied this, noting that the investigation focussed on Saaremaa-based companies in connection with applying for money from two support measures, with best practices relating to applications submitted in 2018-2021 under scrutiny.

Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) spokesperson Leana Loide said the investigation and gathering of evidence was ongoing, making it currently not possible to specify the details of the suspicion or suspects.

Postimees reported that Tullio Liblik's firm Tulik Invest had received €1.9 million support via state agency Enterprise Estonia. This sum represents around 30 percent of the development's cost.

When approached for comment, Liblik said the procurement processes were the focal point of the investigation.

"There is a check going on on whether the construction procurements have been organized in accordance with the regulations and we ourselves say that they have been," he told Postimees.

"There is big money at play, more than €5 million of state money. This check is fully expected, and our building is in order. If there is to be a review of documents, this is very welcome," he added.

The WOW center opened its doors around a year ago.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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