Suspected large-scale money launderers subject of criminal investigation

Office of the Prosecutor General, in Tallinn.
Office of the Prosecutor General, in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Three people are under investigation over alleged money laundering activity which took place over a period of several years. The trio became the subject of the investigation at the end of last month, with the total sums laundered suspected at nearly €28 million. A fourth individual is under investigation in relation to the laundered funds, whose origins were criminal proceeds from activities in Ukraine.

The individuals, three men aged 50, 54 and 55, allegedly helped conceal the real origins of criminal assets by offering money-laundering services, principally businesses and bank accounts that were under their control and registered in different states.

A 51-year-old woman is a co-suspect..

The offenses were committed in Ukraine, where a separate investigation is ongoing, BNS reports, though state prosecutor Maria Entsik has said that as with any money laundering case, identifying the crime which led to the generation of the assets is the most difficult aspect of an investigation.

Entisk said: "Often the preceding crimes have been committed in states where the collection of evidence, investigation and detection of crimes is complicated."

"In the criminal case in question, Estonian law enforcement agencies have worked in close cooperation with their Ukrainian colleagues because in a situation where a crime exceeds state borders, merely local investigations do not produce the desired result," she continued.

"International investigation teams are formed to investigate more and more crimes, making proceedings more efficient because each state's investigative authorities can focus on collecting evidence in their own country, and thus make a more efficient contribution to clarifying the circumstances," Entsik went on.

Leho Laur, head of the economic crimes bureau at the Police and Border Guard Board's Central Criminal Police, said that the nitty gritty activity included presenting fictional invoices, entering into contracts on behalf of businesses, and granting loans over a period spanning almost eight years and constituting a major source of revenue for the suspects.

At the same time, Laur said that: "Money laundering is an integral part of large-scale financial crime and it causes great damage to crime victims and reputational damage to the state and financial establishment through which the money is laundered."

Otherwise, the case bears all the typical hallmarks of classic money laundering, since funds were moved from one account to another to layer the money and render its origin difficult to identify.

The prosecutor's office has sought from the court the seizure of criminal assets totaling around €1.2 million in the course of the investigation, BNS reports.

As is standard practice, the case is being investigated by the PPA under the guidance of the Office of the Prosecutor General.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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