Henri Laupmaa, who is suspected of misappropriating large sums of money, says that the money donated to support Ukraine via the toeta.me platform is still there, and that its distribution was simply delayed, for a number of reasons. However, according to the initiators of the fundraisng campaign, Laupmaa is simply trying to delay the process.
Toeta.me is an online crowdsourcing platform, which has been used by Ukrainian aid workers to collect donations. The money collected on the platform goes to the account of the NGO "Infograafika ja Ergonoomika Instituut," which is run by Henri Laupmaa. Laupmaa is now suspected by the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) of misappropriating funds.
The Prosecutor's Office said that it opened criminal proceedings to verify information it received alleging that money donated for charitable purposes via the donation platform toeta.me had been misappropriated.
One of the projects in question aimed to send drones to Ukraine to support the Ukrainian military. According to Laupmaa, the transfer of money provided by donors to the drone manufacturer had been delayed as the contract needed to be amended.
"Basically, we could not reach a sufficient agreement on the wording. So, we bounced it back and forth. In the meantime, they changed it back to an earlier version, which I didn't agree with, and in short, it took time to make the corrections," said Laupmaa.
The initiators of the donation project, Riigikogu MPs Juku-Kalle Raid (Eesti 200) and Eerik-Niiles Kross (Reform), said Laupmaa had no right to set the conditions for how donors' money could be used. In their view, all the claims made about the wording of the contract were a way of stalling in order to keep the money.
"At one point, he started explaining that we should make some kind of agreement that he, as the platform representative, is happy with. He's the one and only member of the board, and then he sent out some totally absurd papers for us to sign. They absolutely did not touch on the fundraising mechanism, which had been agreed upon and it was simply an obvious way of delaying," Raid said.
Drone manufacture Threod Systems has so far received donations from donors in two separate payments totaling €63,000. According to Laupmaa, another €37,000 is on the way.
"Of course, we are trying and hoping to get as much money as possible from there, but from what I've heard today, I think €60,000 of the €224,000 has been transferred, and only after the allegation of a crime was made. Where the rest of the money is - I don't know," Kross said.
"That money is still there. We already made that transfer to Threod according to the agreement. How much was it? It was the amount in accordance with the first invoice they made. As per the agreement, maybe the first part. The second part will be when they have completed their work, which is at the end of this month," Laupmaa said.
However, for the donors, it remains unclear why it was necessary to transfer the funds in several instalments when there was no agreement to do so.
"I don't understand what right he has to keep going on about this money, if it exists at all. It's not his business to bang on about it. It has come from donors to the platform and so it's very odd that he should be going on about it," Raid said.
The fundraising campaign had been supposed to run until June this year. As there had been no pre-agreement signed between the campaign initiators and the toeta.me platform, the campaign was conducted on the basis of mutual trust.
"Legally, there is perhaps an issue in that it is, to some extent, unregulated. And I am a little concerned that after cases like this, there will be a huge desire to regulate these kinds of things more strictly," said Kross.
Earlier this week, the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) announced that it had filed a suspicion against the NGO "Infograafika ja Ergonoomika Instituut," which operates the online platform "Toeta.me," and its sole board member Henri Laupmaa, for the alleged misappropriation of funds. Among other projects, the platform has been involved in collecting donations to support Ukraine. The Prosecutor's Office did not disclose any further details.
Editor: Michael Cole