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New nationwide district prosecutor's office to be in charge of financial crime

Prosecutor General Andres Parmas.
Prosecutor General Andres Parmas. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The Prosecutor's Office wants to complement Estonia's four district prosecutor's offices with a nationwide district prosecutor's office for financial and corruption crimes. Prosecutor General Andres Parmas said that more complicated cases could be handled by several prosecutors.

The most important criminal cases that affect the entire country are prosecuted by the Office of the Prosecutor General, while the lion's share of everyday work is done by the North, South, Viru and West prosecutor's offices.

Prosecutor General Andres Parmas wants to create a new district prosecutor's office to deal exclusively with financial and corruption cases by March 1.

Parmas told ERR that the prosecution has been short of financial and corruption case prosecutors in Virumaa (Lääne-Viru and Ida-Viru counties), Western and Southern Estonia. "It has kept us from optimal work organization."

The new district prosecutor's office will employ 40 people, while only the position of leading prosecutor will be new. The remaining people will be transferred from existing prosecutor's offices.

"While prosecutors already specialize in certain proceedings, this specialization is not complete, especially in smaller places," Parmas said, adding that the new unit will help focus more clearly on certain types of crime.

The new district prosecutor's office will have three departments. One will deal with tax and customs cases, the other with financial crime investigated by the Central Criminal Police and the third will take care of financial crimes from police prefectures.

"All prefectures will have special financial crime units, which helps make sure the new office will have proceedings partners all over Estonia. Because reorganizing the prosecution alone is not enough," Parmas said.

The changes in the police and prosecution speak of a more fundamental shift toward focusing more on financial and corruption offenses and less on petty theft, brawls or people driving without a license.

More prosecutors to be used in major cases

In recent years, the value of assets confiscated in criminal proceedings has remained between €1.3-4 million. Both the Prosecutor's Office and the Ministry of Justice acknowledge that this is insufficient.

"The longer-term goal is to establish a unit of prosecutors focusing solely on the field of criminal proceeds, working in conjunction with the prosecuting attorney," said Parmas, highlighting that the potential for teamwork in the new district prosecutor's office is significantly greater. He noted that traditionally, a single prosecutor, possibly supported by an assistant prosecutor, handles each criminal case.

"In major and extensive criminal cases, this simply isn't enough," Parmas stated. "It's not sufficient in leading pre-trial proceedings, let alone in the courtroom, where there may be several defense teams. The Prosecutor's Office also needs to field a larger team in such cases."

Parmas explained that a larger team could expedite pre-trial proceedings and help avoid issues if the leading prosecutor leaves the job. The Port of Tallinn court saga is not the only example. "In major and extensive criminal cases, this has been a growing problem for years," the prosecutor general said.

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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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