Friday, January 21, 2022

Estonia former interior minister detained over bribery allegations

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The police on Tuesday detained a former interior minister on suspicion of bribery. The alleged bribes, totaling €100,000, were aimed at heading off bankruptcy proceedings or obtaining a favorable decision in same, potentially to the detriment of creditors.

The former minister, Ain Seppik, was detained on Tuesday and has since been released, as has one co-suspect, his son Siim. Two other suspects remain in detention.

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Leho Lauri, head of the Central Criminal Police economic crime Bureau, said that: “One cannot accept a situation where an individual escapes culpability simply because they have bought a privileged position. The police are seriously investigating the allegations of crimes related to bribery, to clearly signal that dishonest practices have no place in Estonia, while we call for the reporting of the offering or requesting of bribes.”

His sons, Siim Seppik and Sulev Seppik, are also the subject of the detention order, along with a 56-year-old man named Indrek (whose second name cannot be divulged for legal reasons – ed.).

Of the four, Siim and Indrek are currently in detention, while Ain and Sulev have been released.

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The alleged bribe came to €100,000, of which €25,000 had actually been transferred, ERR reports.

Public Prosecutor Sigrid Nurm said that increasingly complex techniques are being used to cover up corruption offenses.

She said: “Shell companies and the transferal of ownership of companies are being used to disguise the link between the beneficiaries and the decisions and processes relating to that company.”

“Bankruptcy proceedings, as a judicial review, can be conducted in a fair and transparent manner and without any interference from the parties,” she went on, adding that: “Bankruptcy proceedings primarily protect the interests of creditors, and those who try to harm other members of bankruptcy proceedings by abusing bankruptcy proceedings must be held liable to the fullest extent prescribed by the law.”

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ERR was unable to obtain comment on the case from Ain Seppik.

Leho Lauri said data collected so far in the course of criminal proceedings indicate that the suspects wanted to reach a favorable outcome in the bankruptcy proceedings through bribery, and to exclude lawsuits against them.

The proceedings are being conducted by the Central Criminal Police under the direction of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.

Seppik, 69, was interior minister 2002-2003 in Siim Kallas’ government, resigning from the post of his own volition. He was an MP in the X and XI Riigikogu compositions (2003 to 2011). He was in the Center Party while minister, later joining the Reform Party.

Prior to his political career, he had headed the Police Board (1995-1997), and was decorated by the state with the Order of the White Star (Valgetähe teenetemärk), V Class, in 1997.

Seppik and his two sons had made a profit of close to €37 million in 2018, while a complex web of shell companies he was involved in have been linked to money laundering activities in the millions of dollars, involving now-defunct Danske Bank in Estonia.

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