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Prosecutor's office launches Taltech EU funding criminal investigation

Taltech Rector Jaak Aaviksoo.
Taltech Rector Jaak Aaviksoo. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

The prosecutor's office has launched a criminal investigation into project financing at Tallinn University of Technology's Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance (RNI), according to ERR's online news in Estonian.

"As of now, the prosecutor's office has examined additional documents, in addition to information published via public sources, and finds it necessary to open criminal proceedings in order to verify allegations made last week in Postimees," said prosecutor's office spokesperson Kaarel Kallas.

A piece in daily Postimees last week reported that information had been provided to the European Commission which artificially inflated working hours at the university, internationally branded as Taltech, as well as money being paid as wages to individuals who did not work on the relevant project.

In a concrete example from 2016, the European Commission allocated €267,500 from the Horizon 2020 (H2020) program to RNI in connection with the OpenGovIntelligence (OGI) project.

"Claims that the RNI … has presented work done to the European Commission related to at least one project and is seeking operational subsidies beyond the actual number of employees suggest that the RNI may have been involved in fraudulent activity," Kallas continued.

Taltech responded to the initial Postimees piece by saying that documents provided by the whistleblower were not proof of fraudulent activies.

Taltech added the whistleblower's identity should have remained confidential, pending an internal audit following the allegations.

The whistleblower was later named as Keegan McBride, a former RNI employee and current PhD student. McBride took his story to the daily after nothing was reportedly done about the situation by Taltech. McBride had approached Taltech's, rector Jaak Aaviksoo, with his concerns in March.

"The reliability of TalTech has been called into question," Aaviksoo said Monday, adding that the university itself was considering approaching the prosecutor's office. In any case the latter said it was pressing ahead with its investigations regardless of Taltech's actions.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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