Embezzlement suspect returns less than half of Ukraine donations by deadline

Henri Laupmaa in the Vikerraadio studio.
Henri Laupmaa in the Vikerraadio studio. Source: Priit Mürk/ERR

An entrepreneur who faces suspicions of large-scale embezzlement of donations provided for the purchase of anti-jamming tech to be installed on drones being sent to Ukraine had as of Monday returned €110,000 of close to €225,000 due to be paid back by that time.

Henri Laupmaa, whose NGO amassed donations via the toeta.me platform and who had control over the related bank account.

ERR reports that one day after the start of criminal proceedings in relation to the case, Laupmaa had transferred €100,000 to Threod Systems, the drone manufacturer in question.

Since then, as noted, only a further €10,000 from the €225,000 whose whereabouts are in question had been returned to the beneficiary, leaving €115,000 still unaccounted for from the total volume of donations.

The donation project's leader, activist Roy Strider, said Laupmaa was required to transfer the balance as of yesterday, Monday. This agreement had been concluded with Laupmaa at the start of October, ie. immediately after the prosecution had initiated criminal proceedings against Laupmaa.

For his part, Laupmaa issued a written statement saying that it was not possible to pay the entire amount by that deadline.

Apologizing for his "mistakes" and "errors of judgment," the funds owed will need to be paid in installments, he said.

Laupmaa added that he will do everything to resolve the situation as quickly as possible.

The toeta.me donation campaign had raised money in respect of the purchase of 21 anti-GPS jamming devices for Estonian firm Threod Systems. These would be attached to drones earmarked for Ukraine, and can prolong the shelf life of front-line drones by helping to counter Russian electronic warfare measures.

Threod has actually started the work which the €110,000 due from Laupmaa is to fund, Strider says.

Threod has ordered is first GPS signal anti-jamming GPS devices, which cost €10,000 per unit, he said.

Strider said: "When talking to Threod, I had it confirmed that the first three drones, which are named Kalev, Lembitu and Vambola, are to be transported to Ukraine at the start of November."

"The next six units should go towards the end of November, and then the following at the beginning of December. Since a larger batch has been ordered, they should all reach their destination by year-end. This is of course all very well, but now we need to get the rest of the money from Laupmaa, as soon as possible. I am no longer convinced by these pledges from Laupmaa on this."

ERR originally reported that nearly €223,000 had been amassed via the donation drive. Strider said that that figure has been revised upwards slightly, and it transpires that nearly €225,000 was in fact the sum collected.

Strider added that the donation drive organizers actually lack an overview of how much was donated to the drone campaign via the toeta.me environment, since only Laupmaa has access to this information.

Strider was joined in running the drone campaign drive by Reform MP Eerik-Niiles Kross and Eesti 200 MP Juku-Kalle Raid.

The Northern District Prosecutor's Office began criminal proceedings in mid-September to verify whether funds raised during the course of a charity rally for Ukraine on the online donation platform Toeta.me had potentially been misappropriated.

The Prosecutor's Office did not disclose any further details at that time; Prosecutor Anneli Masing said the Police and Border Guard Board 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.

Laupmaa, under suspicion of the actual appropriate of significant sums of money, says that the money donated to support Ukraine via the toeta.me platform is still present and resting in the account, adding that its distribution has been simply delayed, for a number of reasons.

Fundraising campaign initiators, however, say that Laupmaa is merely buying time.

Toeta.me is an online crowdsourcing platform which has been used by Ukrainian aid workers amass donations.

The funds raised enter the NGO "Infograafika ja Ergonoomika Instituut" bank account, held by Henri Laupmaa.

Since there had been no pre-agreement signed between the fundraiser initiators and the toeta.me platform, the campaign was conducted on the basis of mutual trust.

The fundraising campaign had been supposed to run until June this year.

Laupmaa, 48, is an IT entrepreneur, board member of the Estonian Nature Fund (Eestimaa Looduse Fond) and a co-founder of the "Let's do it!" ("Teeme ära!") initiative, which started in Estonia over a decade ago and went on to go global as "World Cleanup Day."


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Editor: Johannes Voltri, Andrew Whyte

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