Slava Ukraini donor files criminal complaint against organization
A criminal complaint has been filed by a disgruntled donor against an NGO at the heart of an embezzlement scandal
Meelis Oidsalu, a security expert and former long-serving Ministry of Defense deputy secretary general, had donated just over €1,000 to Slava Ukraini, an NGO ostensibly involved in providing aid to Ukraine, in the wake of Russia's invasion.
The NGO's chief, Johanna-Maria Lehtme, on Friday resigned as an MP after barely a month in office, following allegations that implicated her in embezzlement schemes including inflating invoices in respect of a variety of goods and services provided to Ukraine, and linked her to a shadowy figure on the ground in Ukraine, Hennadi Vaskiv, and his company IC Construction, also thought to have been involved in arms dealing.
While the allegations are already the subject of a criminal investigation in Estonia, Oidsalu said this had not inspired him with much confidence.
"Currently, we would expect the Prosecutor's Office to show a little more activity in standing up for the interests of the victims, that is, the donors," he told Vikerraadio's "Uudis+" Friday.
Oidsalu also hit out against the party which Lehtme ran for at the March general election, Eesti 200 – Lehtme is not a party member – saying that whoever had been providing PR advice to the party throughout the scandal, since it broke in March, ought to be pelted, or at least presented with, a rotten egg.
"Last year, I donated a little over a thousand euros to this worthy cause. Last week, after the prosecutor's office announced that they had opened a criminal case, I, too filed a criminal complaint against NGO Slava Ukrain," Oidsalu went on.
Oidsalu said that he had already considered so before, adding he wanted to give Slava Ukraini the opportunity to speak for itself first.
Oidsalu said he did not feel any bitterness towards Lehtme herself. "I merely have a sincere interest in whether the state really stands up for the interests of donors and residents as lackadaisically as appears to be the case right now."
If this money is floating around on someone's account where it shouldn't be, then the funds could move from there, either forcibly, or in some other way, to those really in need," he added.
He also thanked Annika Arras, Lehtme's former boss, who told investigative weekly Eesti Ekspress in an article published this week that her former charge had been caught with her finger in the till in the past.
Arras had not come forward hitherto, on the grounds, she said, that she had agreed with Lehtme to keep things quiet, on the proviso that she do nothing like that again – those activities related Lehtme's term as project manager at the European Women's Academy of Political Leadership and Campaigning (EWA) down to 2017.
Something good may come out of the case if the Estonian prosecutor's office is able to provide assistance to its Ukrainian counterpart, also involved in an investigation into what went on with Slava Ukrainia and its partners, Oidsalu added.
Lehtme said Friday via a spokesperson that the decision to step down from the Riigikogu had been hers and made in the interests of a fair ongoing investigation, and in the interests of the party.
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Editor: Andrew Whyte