The Minister of Defence Margus Tsahkna replied to the interpellation concerning the finding of a large quantity of smuggled goods on minehunter “Sakala” (No. 282), submitted by members of the Riigikogu Mart Helme, Martin Helme, Henn Põlluaas, Uno Kaskpeit, Jaak Madison, Raivo Põldaru and Arno Sild on 5 December 2016.
The interpellators referred to the fact that the Tax and Customs Board had found a large quantity of illegal alcohol and cigarettes without revenue stamps on board the Estonian minehunter “Sakala” on 17 November 2016. That had not been the first time for the Estonian navy to get into trouble with the law.
The interpellators wished to know why no one of the “Sakala” crew had yet been brought to justice and, instead, the vessel had gone on a mission again at once.
Tsahkna explained that criminal proceedings had been commenced in respect of the events on minehunter “Sakala”, under the lead of the Tax and Customs Board. Disciplinary proceedings had also been commenced which are conducted by the military police in the Defence Forces. “By today, both the commander of the navy and the commander of the vessel “Sakala” have resigned from their posts,” Tsahkna said. He noted that this minehunter had been promised to the allies for operation in the composition of a NATO minehunting group until 30 June this year. The ship does not bear the guilt of any member of the navy. It is therefore free to return to the mission region. “We fulfil our commitments made to our allies. This particular incident has received a moral and ethical evaluation from the Defence Forces. The concrete circumstances are investigated pursuant to the procedure,” Tsahkna confirmed.
The Minister said: “At present, both Navy Captain Sepper and Lieutenant Commander Laanemets are on positions that are significantly lower than their rank and previous career would presume.” He added that if the investigation, and later, based on these materials, the court, should decide that there are grounds for releasing somebody from service, then it will be done.
Tsahkna said that the managerial staff of the navy had talked with its employees in the light of this case, and had informed them that the navy does not tolerate such behaviour. “The resignation of the commander of the navy as well as the resignation of the commander of minehunter “Sakala” has also given a very clear message that the Defence Forces bear the responsibility also if the reputation of the Defence Forces is impaired,” the Minister of Defence said. He said that the case is certainly an additional lesson for us in the light of which we will introduce the necessary internal control measures.
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