Corruption trial opens

Nine people, including Centre Party MP Antti Kaikkonen and Jukka Vihriälä, a former Centre Party MP and head of the Slot Machine Association, face corruption charges related to donations made by the Youth Foundation in a campaign finance trial that opened in Helsinki on Monday.

Antti Kaikkonen (vas.) ja Jukka Vihriälä (oik.). Image: Yle

The Youth Foundation, a non-profit housing organisation, once headed by former Centre Party premier Matti Vanhanen, is accused of illegally handing out generous campaign donations.

The prosecution is pursuing two main types of charges, aggravated bribery and abuse of positions of trust.

According to the charges, the former chairman of the board of the Youth Foundation, Centre Party MP Antti Kaikkonen, seven other board members and a foundation representative handed out over 90,000 euros in political campaign contributions in violation of the Youth Foundation's own by-laws and the law governing foundations.

The campaign contributions are believed to have been made over a period between 1998 and 2009, when police began their investigation.

The bribery charges relate to Youth Foundation funds used to purchase works of art, from an election support group backing then-Centre Party MP Jukka Vihriälä, who was also the Chairman of the Board of the state-run Slot Machine Association (RAY), and to finance travel for Vihriälä between 2001-2007.

The Office of the State Prosecutor says that nearly 50,000 euros were used to influence Vihriälä, who as the chair of Slot Machine Association was directly involved in decisions on the distribution of state funding for the Youth Foundation.

Vihriälä is also believed to have accepted benefits from nine other foundations or associations that received funding from the Slot Machine Association. These were in the main one-time sums of 950 euros for the purchases of paintings. Charges are not being brought on these counts.

Jukka Vihriälä also faces charges of violating a position of trust. The prosecution maintains that he should have sequestered himself from any decision making concerning Slot Machine Association funding of organisations that had contributed to his campaign.

The prosecution is seeking a prison sentence for Vihriälä, a suspended prison sentence for Antti Kaikkonen and fines for the other accused in the case.