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Helsinki mayor denies committing criminal offense: "I was the one who called the police"

The suspected offence relates to the activities of an NGO, of which mayor Juhana Vartiainen also serves as chair of the board.

Photo shows Helsinki Mayor Juhana Vartiainen of the National Coalition Party.
Helsinki Mayor Juhana Vartiainen of the National Coalition Party. Image: Antti Kolppo / Yle
Yle News

Helsinki Mayor Juhana Vartiainen (NCP) has denied an allegation, first reported by Swedish-language newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet (HBL), that he misused a position of trust.

The suspected offence relates to the activities of an NGO called Pohjola-Norden, which promotes Nordic cooperation in Finland with Vartiainen serving as chair of its board.

Vartiainen told Yle that he does not believe he has committed any offence.

"On the contrary. When I became aware of these issues, I reacted immediately. I called a board meeting, we replaced the executive director and we launched an investigation, which led to a criminal complaint and ultimately to this investigation. You could say that I was the one who called the police," Vartiainen said.

Helsinki police began investigating the NGO in July 2021 in relation to the activities of its former Secretary General Michael Oksanen. The suspected offences include aggravated embezzlement and misuse of a position of trust and are believed to have been committed between 2015 and 2021.

The NGO and its parent foundation suspect that Oksanen embezzled funds and transferred them to a bank account he controlled, from which he then transferred money to his own accounts. He resigned from his position as Secretary General in May 2021.

HBL reported that Vartiainen is one of five suspects in the case, with police outlining in a press statement that all five are suspected of misuse of a position of trust.

Vartiainen confirmed to Yle that he has been questioned by police.

"All I can say is that, as far as I know, these improper arrangements had already begun before I became chair of the board," he said.

Maarit Vierunen, chair of the NCP's Helsinki council group, told Yle that she was aware of the case, but only heard about the allegations related to Mayor Vartiainen on Monday.

"We have not discussed this. We have a council group meeting on Wednesday, so maybe we'll discuss it there," she said.

Helsinki police handed the file on the suspected offences at Pohjola-Norden over to prosecutors last week for further consideration.

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