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Iltalehti: PM lobbied for Finnish biotech in India – company partly owned by his children received 110 million euro deal

Iltalehti newspaper is reporting that Chempolis, a company with business ties to Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s family, was among a group of enterprises that the PM promoted during a Team Finland visit to India in February of last year.

Image: Purit Paranjpe / Lehtikuva

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä was accompanied by representatives of 17 Finnish companies seeking business ties in India. One of them was the Oulu-based biotech company Chempolis, which on the final day of the event announced a 110 million euro deal to build a bio-waste refinery in India.

According to Iltalehti, Prime Minister Sipilä's children own around 5 percent of Chempolis via the holding company Fortel Invest. A major shareholder in the company is one of Sipilä's former close associates Juha Hulkko.

Prime Minister Sipilä himself used Fortel Invest as an investment platform up until he divested his holdings in 2013, following his election as Centre Party chair the previous summer.

In India, Sipilä met with top ranking officials including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Minister of Finance Arun Jaitley.

Joint venture

Following the event, Chempolis issued a press release on its joint venture with India’s Numaligarh Refinery to build a biorefinery in North East India (Assam) for producing bioethanol. According to the release, biofuels are being promoted by Prime Minster Narenda Modi’s government and “the topic was discussed also in meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilä during his business delegation in India on 12-14 February 2016.”

According to Iltalehti, PM Sipilä said in an email to the newspaper that the discussions with the Indian PM were on a general level about Finnish biotech and each minister is tasked with ensuring equal promotion of Finnish companies.

PM's Terrafame connection

In late November of 2016 the office of the Parliamentary Ombudsman announced that it is looking into complaints filed by private individuals concerned about a possible conflict of interest on the part of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä. Sipilä came under pressure to clarify his role following media reports by Yle and others that Katera Steel -- a company owned by his relatives -- had won a half-a-million euro contract from Terrafame, a taxpayer-funded mining operation in eastern Finland formerly known as Talvivaara.

Just two weeks before the deal, government had decided to further bankroll the mine to the tune of 100 million euros.