Slava Ukraini paid IC Construction hefty commission

Johanna-Maria Lehtme.
Johanna-Maria Lehtme. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

Estonian NGO Slava Ukraini and IC Construction inked a contract in August of last year under which the Estonian non-profit organization agreed to reimburse the costs of bringing humanitarian aid to Ukraine. The Ukrainian company first charged Slava Ukrainij €5,980 per month; however, by January of this year, the sum had climbed to €7,000.

Under the provision of a contract agreed on August 11 in Lviv between Slava Ukraini and IC Construction, Slava Ukraini is required to pay IC Construction for different transportation-related services.

For example, IC Construction had to locate carriers and negotiate contracts for the transport of the goods, pay transport fees, arrange for the storage of the goods, prepare customs declarations, measure and pack the goods.

Under the terms of the contract, IC Construction also agreed to advise Slava Ukraini on the selection of suitable routes, to verify the accuracy of the information contained in the documents submitted by the NGO, to coordinate the activities required for the transport of the goods, to prevent and avoid shipment delays.

In addition, IC Construction was required to provide Slava Ukraine with a monthly report detailing the work completed and the actual fees paid.

Under the same contract, Slava Ukraini agreed to submit requests for the necessary transportation needs, provide details about the goods and transport conditions, make the goods available for shipment on time and reimburse IC Construction for the fees. The contract's contents were to remain confidential.

Annex 1 of the contract was signed in Lviv on the same day, and stipulates that Slava Ukraini will pay IC Construction €5,980 per month for the transportation of vehicles, food, medical equipment, military equipment and other humanitarian supplies from Tallinn to Lviv. The contract includes the search for vehicles and people to transport the humanitarian aid, as well as the preparation of the route, the transshipment of the aid, customs declarations and documentation.

According to the service file dated August 31, IC Construction transported a humanitarian cargo of vehicles, food, medical supplies, military equipment and other items from Tallinn to Lviv for €5,980.

A analogous service file was compiled for September 30, when the total cost of services was also €5,980.

Slava Ukraine has received three invoices from IC Construction totaling €5,980 for the delivery of humanitarian aid in August, September and November. In December, a bill for €6,600 for the same service was submitted.

The contract was set to expire on the last day of 2022, but the parties agreed it could be extended by mutual agreement. On the premise of the submitted invoices, this is supposed to be the case, as the contract is accompanied by an invoice for IC Construction's January services and the amount has risen to €7,000.

However, the agreement specifies additional payments. IC Construction and Slava Ukraini entered into a contract on August 30 to replace vehicle interiors along with installing additional equipment. The contract price per vehicle is €3,500, plus €100 for the installation of additional equipment per vehicle.

The contract went into effect on the date of signature and was set to expire on or before August 29, 2023.

When suspicions of misappropriation of Slava Ukraini's funds surfaced in March, the NGO's board decided to order a financial audit and review and suspend payments to Ukrainian partners pending the audit's results.

ERR asked Marika Priske, the sole member of Slava Ukrainy's board of directors, whether the amount paid under the contract was merely a commission, how much money Slava Ukrainy paid to IC Construction under the contract, and whether or not a commission was also paid to the NGO's first Ukrainian partner, All For Victory charity foundation, but Priske was unable to answer these questions.

"We commissioned an audit to evaluate Slava Ukraini's work and provided the auditor with all available information," she said. "Both Estonian and Ukrainian law enforcement agencies have begun investigating Slava Ukraini's activities and we are cooperating with them," she added. "Given the current circumstances, I do not think it is wise to provide the media with information about Slava Ukraini's activities that have become the subject of an official investigation."

ERR was unable to reach Johanna-Maria Lehtme, founder and former head of Slava Ukraini, for comment.

In April, it was disclosed that the Estonian NGO Slava Ukraini had transferred €1.5 million in Estonian donations to IC Construction, a private company with connections to the leaders of its Ukrainian partner.

The primary activity of IC Construction appears to be affiliated with an Estonian non-governmental organization. The previous year's profit for the Ukrainian company was €250,000.

Lehtme founded the charity Slava Ukraini at the outbreak of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The Estonian public donated millions of euros to the NGO which provided humanitarian aid to front-line troops.

She received much praise for her work last year and was elected to the Estonian parliament on March 5 as the candidate of Eesti 200. Lehtme is not a member of the Eesti 200 party but was elected to the Riigikogu in its ranks, winning over 5,000 votes and making her the party's most popular candidate.

On March 24, the Ukrainian State Bureau of Investigation (DBR) initiated a per-trial investigation and criminal proceedings under two articles: misappropriation of property and the use of humanitarian assistance and charitable donations for profit. The DBR is investigating it under the supervision of the Ukraine's Prosecutor General Office, because authorities are involved in the case.

On 9 May, also the Estonian Office of the Prosecutor General announced that criminal proceedings had been initiated to investigate the use of funds raised to support Ukraine by Estonian NGO Slava Ukraini. Proceedings were launched based on the section of the Penal Code on embezzlement.

The same day, the supervisory board of Ukraine aid NGO Slava Ukraini has decided to recall manager Johanna-Maria Lehtme from the board for the duration of criminal investigations in Ukraine and Estonia.

Lehtme announced her resignation as a Riigikogu member on May 19.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa

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