The Public Prosecutor's Office has sent to court criminal charges against Eerik Heldna, Elmar Vaher and Aivar Alavere regarding fraud and aiding fraud.
The prosecution said it has charged Heldna with fraud and conspiracy to falsify official documents, Vaher with aiding fraud and falsification of official documents and Alavere with aiding fraud and falsification of official documents as an official.
"The nature of the charges is that Eerik Heldna, with help from Elmar Vaher and Aivar Alavere, led the Estonian Social Insurance Boards (SKA) to believe he had 25 years of work experience as a police official by May 5, 2022, which caused SKA to start paying him a corresponding special pension," the prosecution said.
According to the charges, Heldna in February 2019 agreed with Vaher that he will be registered as working at the Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) and sent back immediately to the Estonian Defense Forces Intelligence Center where he was already working and where his employment relationship was never terminated. Vaher and Alavere apparently agreed that he would be working at the Central Criminal Police's secret witness protection unit. The charges outline that Heldna, Vaher and Alavere all knew the former would not be performing PPA tasks and that his apparent hiring only served the purpose of qualifying Heldna, who was working for a different agency at the time, for a police pension.
The Public Prosecutor's Office believes the men committed fraud and falsified official documents when presenting SKA with false information about Heldna's employment history.
The Social Insurance Board filed a damages claim against Heldna in the sum of €7,472 as of October 6, 2023, but because pension payments are still being made, SKA will get the right to demand the return of the sums in full should Heldna be convicted.
If convicted, Heldna could be looking at a financial punishment or up to four years in prison. Vaher and Alavere could be looking at 1-5 years in prison as they are charged with committing offenses in the position of officials.
The men have not pled guilty.
Pretrial proceedings were carried out by the Internal Security Service (ISS). No preliminary hearing date has been set.
Defense attorney: Accusations are unfounded
Lawyer Margus Kurm, who represents Vaher and Heldna, said the accusations are unfounded and the crime has not been proven.
"The offences alleged against Eerik Heldna, Elmar Vaher, and Aivar Alaver are not proven. In particular, the prosecution's main allegation that Erik Heldna had no intention of returning to the PPA has not been proven," said Kurm.
"And even if it were proven, it would still not be a crime. This is because the law does not stipulate how long a person has to have previously worked for the PPA before they can be rotated. In other words, the law does not prohibit an officer from being rotated to another agency on the same day he or she was hired. And service in another agency is exactly the same as police service in the PPA," he added.
Kurm said Heldna has not given any false information to SKA. "Perhaps from both an evidentiary and a purely legal point of view, this accusation is unfounded," he noted.
The lawyer added he could not find evidence in the criminal case file that proves Heldna had no intention of returning to the PPA or that any legal regulations were violated in the process of appointing and rotating Heldna.
It is currently unknown when the hearing of the case will begin. Kurm hoped the process will be concluded as quickly as possible.
"I do hope that in this matter we will find these common freedoms in the near future and that this process will not drag on," he said.
This article was updated to add comments from Margus Kurm.
Editor: Marcus Turovski