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White-collar criminals flout bans to carry on business as usual in Finland

Many Finnish firms are led by individuals who have been convicted of white-collar crimes.

Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen wants a joint EU approach to financial crime. Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

A study by the Yle investigative news programme MOT reveals that nearly 400 Finns, or about a third of people banned from business operations, are still working in corporate management positions. In some cases they get around the ban by setting up companies abroad.

Temporary or permanent disqualifications from the pursuit of commercial activities are almost always imposed as a result of convictions for financial crimes. They are aimed at preventing the perpetrators from committing more such violations.

“Most of those who are prohibited from conducting business have been found guilty of criminal activities that are considered ‘non-minor’. In practice this means general financial crimes such as aggravated tax fraud, debtor's dishonesty or bookkeeping violations,” Detective Superintendent Jukka Korkiatupa of the National Bureau of Investigation told MOT.

Minister seeks EU-wide bans

In June, there were 1,181 people in Finland under business bans. More than 85 percent of them were men. A standard ban imposed by a district court lasts 3-7 years.

According to the trade register, 376 of them were still board members, CEOs or held other executive positions. They served in nearly 700 firms, with many of them involved in several companies. Eighty-two of these firms were officially domiciled in Finland’s southern neighbour, Estonia.

Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen is calling for the European Union to set up a common system of business bans to fight financial crime.

“I think we need EU-wide business bans, because entrepreneurs quite extensively set up firms in various countries and it’s clear that you can circumvent the rules by establishing a company in Estonia or Sweden, for instance,” he says.