The Ministry of Education and Research is seeking damages of close to €120,000 from former education minister Mailis Reps. Reps stepped down over a year ago over an expenses scandal and the alleged misuse of ministry funds, though the sums mentioned up until this point had been in the thousands of euros.
The ministry has filed the civil suit in tandem with the criminal case the prosecutor's office is pursuing and whose hearings start in the new year. The criminal case charge sheet refers to €7,500 the minister allegedly embezzled.
The precise sum the ministry seeks in damages is €118, 819.77.
Lawyer Marko Kairjak, acting for the ministry said Wednesday that: "The Ministry of Education and Research has filed a civil action against Mailis Reps to the total of €118,819.77; the action is based on the circumstances and evidence in the file of the criminal case."
"The sum in the civil case is larger than the damage in the charge by the prosecutor's office because the suspicion and charge only include what was embezzled as a result of the offender's activities, and not the total damage caused to the state and the offender's enrichment at the expense of the state's resources," Kairjak added.
"As court proceedings are only about to start in this case, the specific basis of the action and the evidence will not be disclosed until judicial investigation; I also want to specify that the size of the action may change, too; thus, in the interest of court proceedings, detailed circumstances of the case cannot be disclosed. The ministry can provide more detailed clarifications after the judicial investigation has begun," Kairjak continued, declining to outline the details of the sum or what it had allegedly been spent on.
Reps, who resigned in November 2020 after initial media reports by evening paper Õhtuleht revealed she had used the ministry car and its driver for ferrying some of her six children on the school run, is pleading not guilty, her lawyer says.
The preliminary hearing takes place on January 7 2022.
Current education minister is Liina Kersna (Reform). The ministry also recently fired Mart Laidmets, who had served as head of its youth board (HARNO), over alleged opaque payments.
Editor: Andrew Whyte