(Luxembourg, 1 December 2023) – The European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) in Tallinn (Estonia) led searches yesterday at several locations, in a probe into a suspected fraud involving a project to renovate street lighting in the municipality of Põltsamaa.
At issue is a project to renovate existing lighting in some streets of the municipality of Põltsamaa, co-financed by the EU’s Cohesion Fund, and granted by Estonia’s Environmental Investment Centre (EIC).
In addition to the initial request for funds for the renovation of lighting in some streets, a new application was submitted to add the renovation of lighting on other streets. This application was accompanied by drawings showing existing street lighting requiring renovation on the added sections.
However, there are grounds to believe that, at the time of the application, there was no existing lighting in some of the added street sections – and, therefore, that there were no legal prerequisites for applying for a subsidy for these sections.
The works were carried out by a private company whose sole shareholder is Põltsamaa’s municipal government. In February 2023, this company confirmed the completion of all works and requested the payment of the subsidy, including for the sections where it is disputed that there was any preexisting lighting. The potential damage to the EU budget for those sections amounts to around €35 000.
The searches were carried out by the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board (Politsei- ja Piirivalveamet) at the premises of the private company and of one contractor, as well as at the home and workplace of one individual. The police seized documents and evidence.
The investigation is still ongoing, in order to ascertain the nature and extent of the suspected criminal activities. No one has been officially declared a suspect.
The EPPO is the independent public prosecution office of the European Union. It is responsible for investigating, prosecuting and bringing to judgment crimes against the financial interests of the EU.