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Media prompted prosecutor's office Taltech investigation, not rector

Jaak Aaviksoo in the ETV studios.
Jaak Aaviksoo in the ETV studios. Source: Kairit Leibold/ERR

Criminal proceedings initiated by the prosecutor's office on Tuesday into allegations of fraudulent use of European Union funds at Tallinn University of Technology (known internationally as Taltech), resulted from media reports, ERR's online news in Estonian says.

An investigation has now been opened after daily newspaper Postimees reported claims made by a whistleblower that EU funding at the university's Ragnar Nurkse Department of Innovation and Governance (RNI) was being misspent. The claim is being handled by senior prosecutor Katrin Mikenberg, at the Northern District Prosecutor's Office.

Rector of the university, Jaak Aaviksoo, said he had also approached the prosecutor's office in the matter.

Early on this week he said that rectorate at Taltech was considering redress at the prosecutor's office, but the latter opted to go ahead with its criminal investigation regardless of Taltech's actions. The Taltech board has also been kept abreast of events by Aaviksoo, he says.

Aaviksoo's application to the prosecutor's office read as follows:

"Actions taken to date, including previous project activity audits, routine project closure audits, hints I have received, and additional randomly audited research projects to detect systemic irregularities, have not brought to light any specific direct evidence which would confirm a possible offense."

The university has also set up a committee of inquiry, he said.

"The committee will continue to operate within the limits of the administrative rules of the university."

"It is my wish that the truth gets clarified quickly, comprehensively, objectively and with sufficient credibility, and I confirm that the university is willing and ready to cooperate closely with the prosecutor's office and the necessary investigative bodies in further possible further proceedings," Aaviksoo continued in his application.

Last week Postimees reported that a whistleblower, later identified as Keegan McBride a former RNI employee and current PhD student, had approached Aaviksoo in March with concerns about EU project funds were being used to pay staff for work who had nothing to do with the project.

After several months passed without anything apparent action being taken, McBride approached daily Postimees, with the initial article appearing on Thursday.

After the article was published Aaviksoo claimed that he had wanted to keep the whistleblower's identity confidential while an internal investigation into affairs was carried out at RNI.

He also said he had received no concrete evidence of wrongdoing along the lines reported.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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