TALLINN - Ivo Parbus, an adviser to the deputy mayor of Tallinn, has been taken into custody under suspicion of multiple accounts of bribe-taking 's bringing Estonia's ongoing struggle with government corruption back into the spotlight.
On Dec. 6 the Harju County Court took Parbus into custody at the request of the Northern Circuit Prosecutor's Office, which, after monitoring his activities, accused the advisor of accepting bribes on multiple occasions. The court deemed it necessary to arrest Parbus on the grounds that without apprehension he may continue to engage in illegal activity.
"The prosecutor's office applied for the arrest of Parbus for the duration of pre-trial investigation because the suspicion persists that he may continue committing further crimes," said a spokesperson for the Northern Circuit Prosecutor's Office.
The prosecutor's office said Parbus is suspected of smoothing over the processing of site plans for private companies in exchange for money, but declined to dispense further information so as to avoid prejudicing investigations.
"The suspicion, in more detail, handles taking money for resolving problems considering site plans in Tallinn," Maria-Elisa, a spokesperson for the prosecutor's office, told The Baltic Times.
The Estonian daily Postimees reported that security police had Parbus under surveillance since the beginning of the year, and caught the advisor red-handed on Dec. 4 when they discovered bribe money during a raid on his office.
Also under investigation are Aleksander Raide, deputy governor of the Kristiine borough, and former municipal official turned businessman Toivo Susi 's both of whom are accused of bribery and were detained alongside Parbus. The prosecutor's office did not deem it necessary to hold the pair in custody.
The investigation forms yet another episode in Estonia's ongoing battle against corruption, once again bringing the issue to the forefront of local politics. The prevalence of inter-governmental corruption has been a longstanding detriment to Estonia's credibility as a just and developed democracy, and this new saga has prompted renewed pressure for a governmental clampdown on corruption.
Yet according to Ivi Papstel, head of Public Relations at the Justice Ministry, the fact that these cases are coming to light is in itself evidence of the government's serious stance on corruption.
She told The Baltic Times that regulations implemented in 2007 have ensured that fighting corruption has become a paramount issue.
"Naturally, all this does not help to avoid corruption altogether, but it gives a clear sign to corrupt officials, as well as the public, that the investigation and prosecution of such cases, as well as punishing the guilty and confiscating corrupt proceeds is one of the priorities of Estonian criminal policy," said Papstel.
Papstel also said the government was continuing to apply new measures to combat corruption, and spoke of several changes to be made in the upcoming year.
"Internal audits are planned to be made obligatory in local governments, their financial management is to be harmonized and be more transparent. Also, a new draft of the Anti-Corruption Act is being prepared right now, which should make the requirements for officials' avoidance of corruption clearer, more systematic and altogether more efficient," she said.