The Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS) on Thursday morning arrested Tallinn deputy mayor Arvo Sarapuu (Center), who is accused of knowingly violating procedural restrictions on a particularly large scale.
Sarapuu was arrested on suspicion of knowingly violating procedural restrictions on a particularly large scale in connection to a criminal case that the ISS and Office of the Prosecutor General have been investigating since March 1.
Two additional men are also accused of aiding in the violation of procedural restrictions on a particularly large scale.
According to ERR's information, one of the two suspects named is Sarapuu's son-in-law Margo Tomingas and the other is Kaido Laanjärv, chairman of the board at Baltic Waste Management OÜ (BWM).
According to State Prosecutor Laura Feldmanis, this criminal case was initiated in cooperation with the ISS, on the basis of intelligence gathered over an extended period of time, in March already, two weeks before the matter gained widespread attention in the media.
"Journalism has its own important role in society and we understand that completely," she explained. "At the same time, the Prosecutor's Office and the investigative authority have their own role to fulfill and thus despite great public interest we could not provide answers until the criminal investigation allowed for it."
Feldmanis said at a press conference on Thursday afternoon that the Prosecutor's Office did not consider it necessary at the moment to request permission from the courts to take Sarapuu, Tomingas and Laanjärve into custody.
"The arrest of the suspect is enough initially," said Feldmanis, who noted that an individual may be kept under arrest as a suspect for up to 48 hours.
According to the allegations against him, Sarapuu decided together with a close associate belonging to the ring of owners of ATKO transport company group that ATKO Grupp AS and its subsidiaries would participate in public procurements for waste disposal service contracts announced by the Tallinn Environmental Board by means of a front business. For this, a front man was used to establish OÜ Baltic Waste Management (BWM), which was directly subordinate on matters related to economic activity to one of the men arrested on Thursday, who in turn was directly subordinate to the supervisory board of ATKO Grupp.
According to the allegations, Sarapuu's activity considerably and directly influenced BWM, which is subordinate to Sarapuu outside of his official position and operates in his interests.
The state prosecutor said that according to the allegations, Sarapuu directed the resolution of complaints filed against BWM at the Environmental Board and Tallinn Waste Centre in the interests of the company in order to avoid the imposing of sanctions based on service contracts or the law. "As a result of these sanctions, contracts concluded with Baltic Waste Management OÜ could have been terminated and the company would not have had the opportunity to generate revenue and earn a profit," Feldmanis explained.
In organizing waste management services, Sarapuu is fulfilling a public task as deputy mayor of Tallinn. Thus, according to the Anti-corruption Act and Civil Service Act, Sarapuu is an official.
The criminal investigation is being led by the Office of the Prosecutor General and conducted by the ISS.
Despite not even offering the lowest prices, BWM has won procurement tenders for waste management services in the city of Tallinn for the past two years in a row.
Ratas, Aas: Sarapuu cannot remain in office
Prime Minister and Center Party chairman Jüri Ratas and acting Mayor of Tallinn Taavi Aas confirmed in a joint statement that Sarapuu cannot remain in office as deputy mayor.
According to Aas (Center), what happened proved that the Tallinn city government had made the right decision on Wednesday to terminate the use of Baltic Waste Management's waste disposal services in Estonia's capital city.
Editor: Aili Vahtla