Three legal and four natural persons are currently suspects in the investigation involving the Baltic operation of listed Finnish food group HKScan, including ex-management board members Teet Soorm and Mati Tuvi, who were arrested and later released on Wednesday.
While the circle of suspects in the investigation into alleged embezzlement and money laundering by HKScan ex-board members has widened to include a total of seven suspects, Minister of Economic Affairs and Communications Kadri Simson (Center), Soorm's common-law partner, is not among them.
According to Office of the Prosecutor General spokesperson Kaarel Kallas, three legal and four natural persons are currently suspects in the case, and the assets of the legal persons have been seized.
Soorm and Tuvi, who were arrested on Wednesday, were released later that evening, and according to information available to BNS, the Prosecutor's Office is not planning to apply for the court to take anyone into custody.
Police in Estonia on Wednesday arrested Teet Soorm and Mati Tuvi, former members of the management board of HKScan, for embezzlement and money laundering on a large scale.
A third individual has also been arrested under suspicion of aiding and abetting the crimes allegedly committed by Soorm and Tuvi, the Central Criminal Police said.
On the basis of evidence gathered thus far, there are grounds to suspect Soorm and Tuvi of concluding transactions detrimental to the company through misuse of trust and the embezzlement of approximately €1.5 million as well as money laundering on the same scale, said North District Prosecutor Stella Veber.
"According to the allegations, Teet Soorm and Mati Tuvi from 2010-2016 embezzled assets of AS Rakvere Farmid, making use of agreements concluded with businesses belonging to or controlled by persons connected to them," Veber said. "Fictitious invoices were also used to legalize money obtained by unlawful means. In addition, Teet Soorm and Mati Tuvi concluded rent and guarantee agreements detrimental to the company, whereby unjustified obligations in the amount of over €3 million were assumed by the company."
According to the district prosecutor, more than €1.3 million worth of various assets have been seized by now as part of the criminal investigation to secure a civil action.
HKScan cooperating with investigation
"It is important that these violations were brought to light and action was taken to ensure that they will not continue," said Anne mere, executive vice president of the Baltic market area at HKScan. "HKScan is committed to a thorough investigation, and so we have turned to the Estonian authorities. We will not be giving any further comments at this time in order to let them proceed with their inquiry in peace."
HKScan said that after violations of HKScan's operating guidelines were identified, the group has taken several measures to develop collaboration and leadership-related practices in Estonia. For example, Mere cited, cooperation practices between the employer and employees are being further developed.
In November 2016, HKScan Corporation announced plans to initiate an internal inquiry to investigate the practices of its Baltic business. The purpose of the inquiry was to ensure that HKScan's Baltic management is complying with the principles of good governance and the company's code of conduct, HKScan said in a press release on Wednesday.
That December, HKScan shared the results of the inquiry, which affirmed that certain members of the company's Baltic management had indeed had violated HKScan's code of conduct and the principles of good governance. Four members of the management were relieved of their duties and warnings for breaches such as misuse of corporate funds were given.
HKScan then requested that the Estonian authorities investigate whether any violation of the law had taken place.
HKScan Estonia is the owner of the Rakvere Lihakombinaat meatpacking company and poultry producer Tallegg. HKScan Estonia has recently attracted media attention primarily in connection with a wage dispute with employees at the company's Rakvere plant.
Editor: Aili Vahtla