Prosecutor on Slava Ukraini: Not enough to go on to start proceedings yet
The prosecutor's office says that it has no reason to initiate criminal proceedings in respect of an NGO whose donated funds were allegedly misused by a partner organization in Ukraine. Should an audit shed more light on the situation, the prosecutor's office may press on with proceedings.
Appearing on ETV morning show "Terevisioon" Thursday, State Prosecutor Triinu Olev said that the allegations, relating to NGO Slava Ukraini, have so far only been reported in the media, and further reason is needed before criminal proceedings could be initiated.
"We cannot start criminal proceedings simply in order to start searching for a basis for criminal proceedings," Olev said.
"To do so, there must be sufficient evidence that a crime as such has been committed," she went on.
The story first appeared in daily Eesti Päevaleht (EPL) last Saturday, while an added dimension arose from the fact that Slava Ukraini's CEO, Johanna Maria Lehtme, ran, successfully, for Eesti 200 at the March Rigiikogu election
"If we receive any additional information, we may change our position," Olev added, noting that the audit could be one such source of information.
More than that, the prosecutor's office and the police have no further information on the NGO.
An intentional crime would, for instance, arise if the NGO's chief had benefited themselves from the dealings, for instance.
Furthermore, the media reports thus far indicate that any crime committed would most likely have happened in another jurisdiction, ie. In Ukraine.
Ukraine's prosecutor's office has not, Olev added, requested help or cooperation on any such investigation there, though if that were to transpire, the Estonian prosecutor's office would have a duty and obligation to do so.
The EPL article alleges that around €1.5 million in funds which were accrued from donations from ordinary Estonians ended up in the hands of a for-profit company in Ukraine, ie. that the latter had been skimming off the top after positioning itself as a middle-man in the distribution of much-needed aid.
Slava Ukraini also provides, for instance, clothing and first aid equipment, in the face of Russia's large-scale invasion of Ukraine, now in its second year.
Slava Ukraini has, in addition to ordering the audit, structural changes have been made to the NGO's management board, in an aim to make it more transparent
Lehtme polled highest out of any of the party's candidates after running on a campaign which expressly referenced her as a "helper of Ukraine".
Eesti 200 leader and Riigikogu speaker Lauri Hussar, a former newspaperman, also says there is insufficient information on the matter, to take up a firm position.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Barbara Oja
Source: "Terevisioon", interviewer Reimo Sildvee