The CEO of Polarica Oy, a berry sourcing company based in the north of Finland, has been detained on suspicion of human trafficking during a sitting of Oulu District Court on Saturday.
Jukka Kristo has been organising the transit to Finland and seasonal work carried out by Thai berry pickers for a number of years.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and the Finnish Border Guard confirmed the criminal investigation on Monday. Charges must be brought by 23 May 2023.
In a company press release, Polarica denied all the allegations related to human trafficking as well as the criminal offences allegedly committed by Kristo. The company noted that it has been actively following the law on foreign berry pickers and is continuously developing responsible berry picking with Finnish and Thai authorities.
Polarica further added that the ongoing criminal investigation will not affect its business operations.
The company brought around 1,100 berry pickers from Thailand to Finland this year.
However, police suspect that the Polarica pickers were in a situation of dependency on their employer, which is a typical feature of human trafficking, and that they were also housed in poor conditions.
Last January, the Supreme Court sentenced a berry farmer from Hankasalmi to one year and ten months in prison for human trafficking offences involving Thai berry pickers.