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Parliamentary Ombudsman to decide whether PM faced conflict of interest over mine deal

The Parliamentary Ombudsman will examine whether Prime Minister Juha Sipilä should have recused himself from decisions on the state-owned Terrafame mine. The office of the Chancellor of Justice said that it had received more than 10 complaints about a possible conflict of interest on the PM’s part, given that a subcontractor firm owned by his family received a lucrative order from the state-owned company.

Pääministeri Juha Sipilä Terrafamen tehtaalla 14.11.2016
Pääministerin Terrafame-pipo. Piposta tuli kuuluisa. Image: Jonna Karjalainen / Yle

The office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman said that it is looking into complaints filed by private individuals concerned about a possible conflict of interest on the part of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä.

Last week Prime Minister Juha Sipilä came under pressure to clarify his role following media reports that Katera Steel - a company owned by his relatives -- had won a half-a-million euro contract from Terrafame, a taxpayer-funded mining operation in eastern Finland formerly known as Talvivaara.

Just two weeks before the deal, government had decided to further bankroll the mine to the tune of 100 million euros.

A dozen complaints from private individuals

On Saturday Antti Rinne, head of the opposition Social Democratic Party called for an independent review of Sipilä’s actions by either the Parliament of the Chancellor of Justice.

Sipilä’s government partner Petteri Orpo of the National Coalition Party also joined the call for an independent inquiry. However he soft-pedalled on his view by saying that since Sipilä had previously given up his former business interests, the PM was free to engage in political activity without having to recuse himself.

Later on Saturday, the premier was reported as saying that he had asked the Chancellor of Justice to consider possible conflicts of interest arising from the deal between Terrafame and Katera Steel.

The office of the Chancellor of Justice has confirmed that it received more than ten complaints about the Terrafame deal and a possible conflict of interest on the Prime Minister’s part. The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s office said that it had so far received two complaints.

The party that received the first of a series of similar complaints normally investigates them – in this case it was the Parliamentary Ombudsman.

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