TALLINN - Estonia's chief prosecutor has launched a criminal investigation to find out whether citizen Mikhail Gorshkov was linked to the genocide of Jews in Belarus during World War II.
The criminal investigation was initiated by public prosecutor Juri Pihl, and the files on the case were sent to the security police on Dec. 10, Kristiina Herodes, a spokesperson for the prosecutor's office, told the daily Eesti Paevaleht.
"The goal is to find out about the participation of Mikhail Gorshkov in crimes against humanity committed in Belarus in 1943," Herodes said.
Security police spokesman Henno Kuurmann said no suspect had yet been declared in the criminal case.
Estonia first considered launching a criminal investigation into the wartime activities of the 80-year-old more than a year ago when the U.S. Attorney General's office sent materials to the Baltic country about Gorshkov's past.
According to the Americans' information, Gorshkov worked as interpreter for the Nazi Gestapo secret police in the Belarusian capital in 1943.
Specifically, the information linked Gorshkov to the killing of 3,000 Jews in the town of Slutsk and the burning of the ghetto where the victims used to live. As the Nazis had a shortage of manpower, they reportedly involved Gestapo office staff in the murders.
Also, Gorshkov allegedly was linked to an operation against pro-Red Army guerillas.
At the end of the war Gorshkov managed to escape to a refugee camp run by the Allies. Since then he has concealed his past employment with the Gestapo, claiming he had served during the war in an Estonian unit fighting alongside the Germans.
Gorshkov, a native of the southwestern Tallinn district of Paaskula, went to live in the United States and received U.S. citizenship four decades ago.
He only returned to Estonia in 2002 when American authorities began investigating his wartime past.
In the summer of 2002 Gorshkov was stripped of his U.S. citizenship for presenting false data about himself.
The newspaper said that before leaving for Estonia Gorshkov put his house by the Gulf of Mexico up for sale for the equivalent of nearly 5 million kroons (320,000 euros). Some sources, however, suggest that Gorhskov may have already left Estonia.