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Prosecutors partially terminate case against Tartu ex-deputy mayor

Valvo Semilarski.
Valvo Semilarski. Source: Reform Party

The Prosecutor's Office has decided not to charge former Tartu Deputy Mayor Valvo Semilarski (Reform) with bribery, and has announced the partial termination of the related criminal case.

Criminal proceedings have been terminated against businessman Aivo Pärn, whom the Prosecutor's Office previously suspected of giving a bribe, as well as against Semilarski, who was previously suspected of accepting a bribe, according to a ruling signed by Special Prosecutor Margus Gross of the Southern District Prosecutor's Office.

According to the ruling, the proceedings have been terminated due to "an absence of grounds for criminal proceedings," without providing any further details.

The Prosecutor's Office will, however,  move forward with proceedings against Semilarski in connection with suspicions of the violation of procedural restrictions.

Semilarski said that the latest news came as a relief, as he has known since the launch of the investigation that he is not guilty.

"I have repeatedly said it to the investigators, prosecutors as well as the public, and that message has finally been delivered," he said. "It is regrettable that the Tartu bus procurement was given such a bad rap by the Internal Security Service and the Prosecutor's Office, and that I as well as other Tartu city government officials were inconvenienced."

Ruling 'mailed like a Christmas card'

What is upsetting, however, was the way the Prosecutor's Office announced this news — or, more specifically, didn't, Semilarski continued.

"I'd like to remind you that when I was arrested, the Internal Security Service and the Prosecutor's Office immediately gave a press conference and announced to the entire Republic of Estonia that 'the leaders of Tartu city government, one of the most influential local governments [in the country], are corrupt,'" he recalled. "These publicly declared allegations have followed me for nearly two years. Now that it has been determined that these allegations and suspicions turned out to be false, however, the Prosecutor's Office does not want to say a word about it."

The ruling dates back over two weeks, and the results were quietly mailed to him like a Christmas card, he added.

"Considering previous public statements by [Special] Prosecutor Gross about me, I feel that I have been treated unjustly and subjected to unwarranted damage to my reputation," Semilarski said. "Sadly, I have no other option in this situation but to file a claim for the compensation of damage with the administrative court, which I will do so as soon as possible. If severe accusations such as these are presented publicly and prove unfounded, someone needs to take responsibility for their dissemination and compensate the damages caused to the citizen. The state and its representatives should not have the right to sling mud at its citizens and just shrug  it off later.

Oliver Nääs, Semilarski's lawyer, said that the most important aspect of Semilarski's case is that over the two-year investigation, suspicions of bribery, which served as the core of the criminal investigation, have collapsed.

"It was under the pretext of suspicions of bribe-taking that investigative bodies launched a massive surveillance operation, as a part of which 15,000 units of the deputy mayor's phone calls and text messages were obtained," Nääs said. "Now that these suspicions have proved unjustified, it raises further concerns regarding the legality of these surveillance activities."

Suvorov acquitted

In October 2017, the Prosecutor's Office filed suspicions of accepting bribes and violations of procedural restrictions against Semilarski and fellow Tartu Deputy Mayor Artjom Suvorov (Centre), both of whom were arrested. At the time, both the Prosecutor's Office and the Internal Security Service said that evidence against the two deputy mayors was solid.

Suvorov has since been acquitted in a first-tier court.

Over the two-year course of the investigation, no charges have been filed by the Prosecutor's Office against Semilarski.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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