Minister orders probe into bungled face mask procurement

Finland ordered two million face masks that were not up to scratch.

Tiina Jylhä claims she is owed money for a consignment of faulty face masks. Image: Heikki Saukkomaa / Lehtikuva

Finland’s failed procurement of face masks is to be investigated, after a beautician based in Estonia complained that she should have been paid millions of euros for the faulty equipment.

On Tuesday a consignment of two million masks and 230,000 high-grade respirators arrived at Helsinki Airport, destined to join the National Emergency Supply Agency’s stockpile.

However on Wednesday they were found by the VTT Technical Research Centre lab in Tampere not to meet minimum standards for use in Finnish hospitals.

Later on Wednesday evening, Suomen Kuvalehti magazine reported (siirryt toiseen palveluun) that Tiina Jylhä, a tabloid celebrity and plastic surgery business owner based in Estonia, claimed she was cheated out of being paid millions of euros for the consignment.

The money went instead to Onni Sarmaste, a heavily-indebted payday loan operator, after he gave the agency a different, Belgian account number rather than hers.

According to Jylhä, Sarmaste was only due to receive a commission on the deal but instead took the whole advance payment.

Sarmaste told SK that he planned to buy the equipment from Jylhä’s firm but she was unable to provide the items.

He also claimed that Jylhä and her partner Tapani Valkonen had hired the Hells Angels to collect five million euros from him, and that his window had been smashed on Monday.

The National Emergency Supply Agency declined to comment to Suomen Kuvalehti.

Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen announced on Twitter on Thursday morning that she had demanded an explanation from the agency over the murky deal.