Prosecutor General Andres Parmas told ERR that his office received information about potential problems with the Estonian NGO Slava Ukraini at the beginning of March.
The prosecutor's office received the information about Slava Ukraini after the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) analyzed the same information, Parmas said.
"Mid-February, the ISS received a kind of memo — and I underscore that this is what the ISS said, that it was not a crime report but merely a kind of memo indicating that there might be issues. This information reached the office of the public prosecutor after the ISS determined that it was not within their jurisdiction. The prosecutor's office received this information thereafter, at the beginning of March," Parmas explained.
On May 9, the State Prosecutor's Office launched a criminal investigation into the use of funds raised by the Estonian non-governmental organization Slava Ukraini.
However, based on the information received in early March, Parmas judged that there were no grounds for legal action in Estonia.
"There must be both a motivation and reasonable cause to suspect a crime in order to begin proceedings. The reason for beginning proceedings in Estonia could not be based solely on information received by the public prosecutor's office in early March. On the basis of this information, it was only possible to speculate that some kind of violation may have occurred in Ukraine," the prosecutor general said.
"Also, a decision on when to begin criminal proceedings in Estonia could not be made until sufficient material had been obtained to generate suspicions that a crime had happened in Estonia. Prior to the decision, we lacked sufficient information to conclude in favor of pursuing criminal charges," he said.
Parmas explained that from the beginning of March until the beginning of the proceedings the prosecution received additional information from several sources, including media reports.
Oleksandr Chernov, the "whistleblower" in the Slava Ukraini case, had previously provided information on suspicious dealings between the Estonian aid organization and its local partner, but Parmas was hesitant to say whether Chernov should be brought to Estonia from Ukraine to testify.
"We cannot simply bring foreign nationals into Estonia. It is currently uncertain where this person stands in the ongoing criminal proceedings. What role he will play in the proceedings will have to be determined throughout the hearings. I can assure you that we collaborate closely with Ukrainian authorities on a daily basis regarding the Slava Ukraini case," said Parmas.
Editor: Kristina Kersa