Former Eesti 200 MP not declared suspect in Slava Ukraini case, six months in

Former Slava Ukraini manager Johanna-Maria Lehtme.
Former Slava Ukraini manager Johanna-Maria Lehtme. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Former Eesti 200 MP Johanna-Maria Lehtme has still not been charged with anything in regard to a criminal case opened up after the alleged embezzlement of funds from Slava Ukraini, a charity set up gather donations to Ukraine.

State Prosecutor Triinu Olev said of the case, which has been ongoing for around six months, that: "When declaring an individual suspect, sufficient evidence must have been gathered which gives reason to suspect anyone."

"In this case, we opened a criminal case six months ago, regarding embezzlement suspicions, but in order to declare a person suspect, we have to ascertain –  in the context of this particular case –  that the funds collected as donations to the NGO Slava Ukraini did not end up being used for their intended purpose," Olev continued.

"To date, Johanna-Maria Lehtme has not been charged," she added.

The Estonian state has concluded the required procedural actions in respect of the MTÜ Slava Ukraini, criminal case, the Prosecutor's Office says, though it has demurred on whether Lehtme herself has been questioned.

On the other hand, nine related hearings have been held in Ukraine in relation to a whistleblower, Oleksandr Chernov, who wishes to come to Estonia to testify.

While an international investigation team is engaged in collecting evidence, the ongoing war in Ukraine renders this difficult.

Chernov remains on trial in Ukraine, charged with the possession of illegal weapons, charges which he says are trumped up.

"I have a feeling that everything is moving in the direction that I will be imprisoned," Chernkov has said.

The Prosecutor's Office in Estonia says the state cannot intervene, within the framework of its own criminal proceedings, in the proceedings of another country

Minister of Justice Kalle Laanet (Reform) says the provision of assistance of that nature lies directly within the competence of law enforcement agencies , with only influence on a political level viable.

Laanet added that he had requested the Prosecutor General meet with their Ukrainian counterpart to see what optins there might be available either for the investigation operations to take place in Estonia, or for members of Estonian law enforcement agencies to travel to Ukraine to conduct operations. "They must first reach and agreement on this," he said.

Former Prosecutor General Lavly Perling (Parempoolsed), whose work post-prosecutor's office took her to Ukraine, said whistleblower protection is vital, and must be provided to Oleksandr Chernov.

"In the case of Ukraine, the issue of corruption cannot be avoided; there must be sharp questions at the political level too as to what degree of protection an individual who has brought evidence to the Estonian state, to be used in important criminal proceedings, might be offered," Perling continued.

After the allegations of the embezzlement of donated funds to Slava Ukraini emerged in April and May, Lehtme stepped down as an MP.

She had run in the March Riigikogu elections, and won a seat, on the back of a campaign which expressly referenced her as a helper of Ukraine.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera,' reporter Veronika Uibo.

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