Five men and one woman were arrested by police in Estonia last week as suspects in defrauding or aiding in the defrauding of the Agricultural Registers and Information Board (PRIA) and the Environmental Investment Centre (KIK) of more than €1 million.
According to the allegations, between 2010-2016, Madis, 38, and Marika, 37, submitted to PRIA eight and to KIK two investment applications containing incorrect information for the purchase of various equipment for a wood processing facility, spokespeople for the Prosecutor's Office said.
By submitting fictitious price offers and a purported series of transactions, the suspects misled PRIA and KIK with the aim of not having to pay their own contribution to the project. PRIA and KIK made payouts in the total amount of just over €1 million based on applications containing incorrect information between 2010-2015.
In four cases, fraud was allegedly attempted but did not take place.
The first public procedural acts in the investigation were conducted on Jan. 23, when the suspects were arrested and their homes and vehicles searched. The Prosecutor's Office did not, however, deem it necessary to take the suspects into custody.
"There is reason to believe at this point that the individuals declared suspect made very in-depth preparations for defrauding PRIA and KIK over the years," State Prosecutor Eve Olesk said. "They involved persons connected to them and businesses registered in these persons' names in their actions, and there are also grounds to believe that the information submitted to KIK and PRIA had been falsified."
Janek Maasik, head of the Office for the Investigation of Economic Crimes at the Central Criminal Police, said that the case in question involves people specializing in EU subsidy fraud.
"In the allocation of subsidies, actions must be as transparent as possible," Maasik said. "People with malicious intentions would take advantage of the possibility of the private sector to not hold a public procurement and instead stage a mock tender with the help of related businesses and show the prices as higher by the amount needed to avoid paying their own contribution."
According to Maasik, the payment of subsidies could be made more transparent by conducting tenders via the public procurement register. "We have submitted our proposals and given our recommendations, but the necessary changes have not been enactede yet," he added.
Editor: Aili Vahtla