Recalled diplomat Clyde Kull probe also concerns alleged embezzlement

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Public prosecutor Inna Ombler. Source: ERR

A criminal investigation into a veteran Estonian diplomat who was recalled from his post as ambassador to France primarily concerns the misappropriation of money, the prosecutor's office revealed Friday afternoon, as well as breaches in the rules regarding classified information.

The diplomat, Clyde Kull, was detained overnight last Monday, while President Kersti Kaljulaid has signed the order for his recall.

Kull had been ambassador to France since late 2019 and has a diplomatic career which spans the entire length of post-restoration-of-independence Estonian history.

The initial reports stated that Kull was suspected of misusing classified information, but Public Prosecutor Inna Ombler told ERR Friday that Kull is primarily suspected of embezzlement, with the sums of money amounting to the thousands of euros and not more, so far as is known at present.

Ombler also stressed that the investigation, initiated by the Internal Security Service (ISS), is at an early stage, adding the prosecutor's office cannot provide more details at this stage, in the interests of the criminal proceedings themselves.

"As of today, we can talk about thousands, rather than hundreds of thousands [of euros]. I would like to emphasize here that this is a preliminary suspicion," Ombler said.

Ombler was also unable to provide a time-frame of the embezzlement activities at this stage, she said.

"I cannot tell you this without going into the substance of this particular procedure. As with, for example, the violation of the requirements of the handling of state secret classified foreign information, it is possible to go back a long way, retrospectively," Ombler said.

"With regard to the allegations of embezzlement, I can say that the suspected embezzlement concerns the use of state property for personal benefit, by an official, over a period of several years," Ombler continued.

Ombler noted that the violation of handling state secrets remained in place in addition to the embezzlement charges, while classified foreign information was included in these suspicions, she said.

"However, the assessment of these documents or media takes place during criminal proceedings, as to whether they are classified information, were [in the past] classified information, and are still classified information today."

"With regard to misappropriation, it is theoretically always viable to verify a person's perspective and viewpoint in a certain retrospective way. I can't provide the details at this time," Ombler said.

Investigation of the any breach of classified information and classified foreign information will shed more light on the facts of the matter, she added.

Since the investigation is ongoing, the scope, size and nature of the suspicions held against Kull, 66, may evolve, the prosecutor's office says.

Inna Ombler confirmed that Kull has given testimony on the charges, the content of which cannot be divulged to the media, in the interests of smooth criminal proceedings and the principle of the presumption of innocence.

Clyde Kull's defense counsel, Aivar Pilv, said that the period of time under scrutiny goes back 20 to 25 years and establishing the facts requires looking at things through this lens.

Pilv denied Kull was under suspicion of transmitting information to any foreign power, one of the first questions which often gets asked in such cases.

"As things stand, the suspicion that has been raised does not concern the transfer of any information to foreign countries or undesirable persons or anything of that sort. It concerns historical material which Clyde Kull has professionally archived for himself, in terms of his historical memory," Pilv went on

Pilv confirmed the suspicions covered sums of money in the thousands, and that what was being doubted was whether the funds had been used for their intended purpose.

No misappropriation of real estate or other property is contained within the statement of suspicion, Pilv added.

The investigation is ongoing.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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