Skip to content

Convicted ex-cop Jari Aarnio in court over 2003 contract killing

Aarnio has denied charges that he failed to prevent a contract killing in 2003.

Jari Aarnio came to court from prison, where he is serving a sentence for drug and official misconduct convictions. Image: Silja Viitala / Yle

Rogue ex-drug squad chief Jari Aarnio appeared in the Helsinki District Court on Monday morning to enter a plea after being charged for failing to stop the murder of a Swedish-Turkish national in 2003.

According to the prosecutor, Aarnio had advance knowledge of the planned contract killing of Volgan Ünsal and informed Swedish police of the plot during the summer of 2003. The charge sheet also alleges that Ünsal travelled to Finland in September 2003 and was murdered in October in a Vuosaari apartment in eastern Helsinki.

"Aarnio did not even attempt to prevent the murder with the means at his disposal, rather, he accepted it and allowed it to happen," state prosecutor Mikko Männikkö said in court, adding that as a police officer, Aarnio should have acted to prevent it when he heard about it.

Aarnio is suspected of criminal negligence in the case and the charge marks the first time such an offence has been prosecuted in Finland.

Aarnio: No knowledge that Ünsal was in Finland

Aarnio, Helsinki’s former drug squad head, had been previously convicted on aggravated drug charges and official misconduct. He arrived in court from prison, where he is serving a 13-year sentence.

"Aarnio had no knowledge of the murderer or the scene, date or manner in which the crime was committed. He had no duty to prevent the offence on the basis of the law or his position," Aarnio’s lawyer Riitta Leppiniemi told the court after the prosecutor read out the charges.

According to Aarnio’s defence, officials did not know that the murder victim had arrived in Finland in 2003 to visit a friend.

"Swedish police had warned the victim about his childhood friend. Knowing the risk, the victim came to visit this very friend in Finland," Leppiniemi said. The acquaintance in question already had a previous conviction for a contract killing.

Ünsal had been in a witness protection programme in Sweden because he feared reprisals from his underworld associates after divulging information to police about a robbery at Arlanda airport in 2002. He was also said to have co-opted some of the spoils of the robbery for himself.

He was later strangled in Finland by his childhood friend and three other men. Three Finns and one foreigner were subsequently convicted over the crime.

Gang members and MP to testify

Last spring the National Bureau of Investigation announced that it was investigating the Vuosaari hit. In addition to Aarnio, police said that they suspected former gang leader and Aarnio associate Keijo Vilhunen of playing role in the killing.

Vilhunen had previously been investigated over the murder, but the case never made it to prosecutors. He has also denied having a hand in the murder.

The witnesses due to take the stand during the trial include several police officers, such as NBI crime chief Tero Haapala as well as officers from the Helsinki police department.

In addition to Vilhunen, underworld figure, Lauri "Late" Johansson is also expected to take the stand.

Another interesting witness will be former police officer and current National Coalition Party MP, Kari Tolvanen, who led Helsinki’s violent crime unit when the murder took place and initially investigated the case.

The court will hear a total of 40 or so witnesses in a trial that is expected to wrap up at the beginning of November.