Police charge MP, city councillor over Russian visa procurement

A Blue Reform politician is accused of breaching official duties when he ordered a visa that was to expire nearly four years after he was due to step down from the council.

The alleged breach of duty came to light via an internal audit. Image: Heikki Haapalainen / Yle

The Southeast Finland Police Department has completed a preliminary investigation into two Imatra city councillors in connection with the suspected unlawful obtainment of a Russian visa.

One person is suspected of a breach of duty and another of a negligent breach of duty.

The case has progressed to the prosecution of both suspects, according to local newspaper Etelä-Saimaa.

In April, Erkki Saarimäki (Blue Reform), second vice-chair of Imatra City Council, obtained a four-year visa to travel to Russia, although he is to be released from his duties at the end of July.

The visa invoice went through the council and was approved by Niina Malm (SDP), a member of parliament who also chairs the city council.

The council requested an investigation be carried out into the visa issue after the obtainment came to light via an internal audit.

Saarimäki said that he requested the bill be sent to him when placing the order for the visa. However, the travel agency sent the invoice to the city.

Saarimäki has since paid the cost of the visa application to the city.

"There are not too many cases in which local decision-makers are prosecuted for the things they do while in office. On the other hand, this is also not the first time that the misconduct of an official has been investigated," chief inspector of the Southeast Finland Police Department, Matti Raivikko said.

The Blue Reform party split off from the Finns Party in mid-2017 when Jussi Halla-aho took over that party's leadership. Blue Reform holds no seats in Parliament.