Helsinki District Court on Friday sentenced Tytti Yli-Viikari, the former Auditor General at the National Audit Office (VTV), to pay 80 income-linked "day fines" after finding her guilty of misconduct in a public office and malfeasance in a public office.
The charges relate to an employment contract that allowed a VTV official to receive a salary for two years without doing any work.
In its ruling, the court said that the publicity the case has received was not a mitigating factor in the sentence handed down to Yli-Viikari, as her defence had argued.
The court also found Mikko Koiranen, another former VTV official, of the same charges for his role in the contract arrangement, and ordered him to pay 30 income-linked day fines. The court did take the publicity surrounding the case into account when considering Koiranen's sentence.
The prosecutor in the case had demanded that Yli-Viikari receive a three-month prison sentence on charges of payment fraud and misconduct in a public office over the suspected misuse of Finnair Plus points. The prosecutor had also called for suspended prison sentences to be given to both Yli-Viikari and Koiranen over the misconduct and malfeasance offences.
Yli-Viikari and Koiranen had both initially faced charges of aggravated misconduct in a public office and malfeasance in a public office, but the court ruled that the offences were not aggravated.
Both defendants had denied all charges.
Conviction "no obstacle" to Yli-Viikari returning as director general
Lead prosecutor in the case, Mari Mattila, told Yle that although she was pleased that the two defendants were found guilty, she was not satisfied with the court's decision to only fine the two former officials.
"In terms of punishment, the most significant thing was that the district court convicted Yli-Viikari of misconduct in a public office. When this decision can be read in more detail, it will be necessary to consider whether there's reason to express dissatisfaction with the issues related to the measure and determination of the sentence," Mattila said.
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She added that the court's decision to only fine Yli-Viikari means that her conviction does not pose a legal obstacle to her returning to the position of VTV's Director General.
The office is set to make a decision on Yli-Viikari's status at a later date.
Use of flight points not considered embezzlement
The court dismissed the primary charge of embezzlement against Yli-Viikari in relation to her use of the Finnair bonus points because she had been the legal holder of the flight points in her Finnair Plus account, and therefore the criteria for an embezzlement charge were not met.
However, the court did convict Yli-Viikari on a lesser charge in relation to the use of the bonus points, as it found she had benefited from the points at a cost to the state of about 4,500 euros.
Yli-Viikari and Koiranen were ordered to jointly repay 5,208 euros to the National Audit Office, and Yli-Viikari must also pay an additional 5,208 euros on her own. The court also ordered her to pay her legal costs totalling 61,000 euros.
Hairdressing expenses led to investigation
The probe into Yli-Viikari's tenure as Finland's top auditor began after media reports in the summer of 2020 suggested that she had spent about 5,000 euros of public money on hairdressing and beauty services. There were also separate questions over her use of Finnair Plus flight points.
The subsequent probe by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) uncovered evidence of the two-year salary payments that the VTV gave to the official.
Parliament unanimously decided to dismiss Yli-Viikari from her role as Auditor General in June last year. The decision marked the first time Finland's Parliament has dismissed such a high-ranking civil servant.
EDIT 28.1.2022 at 8.08pm: Article edited to reflect that the court ordered Yli-Viikari to pay 61,000 euros in legal fees.