Prosecutor's Office requesting businessman Ossipenko be taken into custody

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Court deliberating taking Nikolai Ossipenko into custody. October 5, 2022.
Court deliberating taking Nikolai Ossipenko into custody. October 5, 2022. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

Of several people detained Tuesday in connection with suspected corruption, the Prosecutor's Office is only requesting that entrepreneur Nikolai Ossipenko be taken into custody. Of the remaining ten individuals, some have already been released and the rest are slated to be released Thursday.

Prosecutor's Office spokesperson Kristiina Kivari said that people can legally be detained for up to 48 hours, within which time several Kohtla-Järve City Council members and municipal officials should be released.

Pending court approval, however, Ossipenko may not be, as Kivari confirmed that the Prosecutor's Office has requested he be taken into custody.

The Prosecutor's Office may also publish the names of all suspects involved in the case on Wednesday, she added.

Police in Estonia detained Nikolai Ossipenko, eight members of Kohtla-Järve city government and Kohtla-Järve City Council and two people connected with Ossipenko on Tuesday on suspicions of giving and accepting bribes as well as influence peddling.

Some ten episodes of corruption are currently under investigation. This is a preliminary suspicion, which may change in the course of the criminal investigation.

Businesses connected to Ossipenko have provided local governments in Ida-Viru County with various services. He himself as well as people connected to him have likewise been active in local politics in the region.

Ossipenko and his utilities business have previously been tried in court as well; some ten years ago, a court ruled that his company N&V had earned nearly €1 million in criminal proceeds. Jevgeni Solovjov, then mayor of Kohtla-Järve, was found guilty; Ossipenko escaped trial on medical grounds.

Sentence of up to 10 years

"It is absolutely extraordinary that so many city officials are detained at once," said Ats Kübarsepp, director of the Corruption Crimes Bureau of the Central Criminal Police. "This was a major operation for us; some 50 police officials took part."

As the investigation is currently in its initial stages, the Prosecutor's Office didn't specify which sums provided as bribes were involved. They were, however, willing to reveal possible sentences.

"The term of punishment could be up to ten years," noted Viru District Prosecutor Alan Rüütel, commenting on the potential sentence Nikolai Ossipenko could face. "This is referring to repeatedly giving bribes — that falls within the ten-year range."

He added that other suspects in the case could also be facing sentences of 5-10 years.

Ossipenko participated remotely in a more than two-hour hearing at Jõhvi Courthouse Wednesday, where deliberations focused on whether the Prosecutor's Office request to take the 64-year-old businessman into custody for two months was justified.

"Based on the evidence collected thus far, there is a significant risk that, if freed, this individual may continue committing crimes," Rüütel said. "In addition to that, however, there is a significant risk that this individual may evade proceedings. In order to conduct the criminal investigation quickly, a request was submitted to take the individual into custody for up to two months."

The judge will issue a decision regarding whether Ossipenko will be taken into custody or not on Thursday morning; the decision is slated to be announced at 9:30 a.m.

Four city council members, four city government officials

In addition to Nikolai Ossipenko (7.08.1958), among other suspects involved in the corruption scandal are eight public figures, whose names were released by the Prosecutor's Office on Wednesday, as well as two people connected to Ossipenko who are not public figures.

Tiit Lillemets (9.06.1979). Kohtla-Järve City Council chair. Nikolai Ossipenko's stepson.

Maria Merkulova (5.20.1978). Kohtla-Järve City Council deputy chair, member of Social Affairs Committee.

Anton Dijev (10.30.1988). Kohtla-Järve City Council member, chair of Social Affairs Committee, member of Youth and Sports Committee.

Deniss Veršinin (8.20.1986). Kohtla-Järve City Council member, chair of Economic Affairs Committee.

Vitali Borodin (10.01.1978). Kohtla-Järve deputy mayor of economic services.

Evelyn Danilov (12.04.1983). Kohtla-Järve deputy mayor of social services.

Aljona Kazakova (1.29.1989). Kohtla-Järve deputy mayor in Ahtme and Oru districts.

Timofei Korepov (1.15.1981). Law enforcement officer in Kohtla-Järve city government's economic services.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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