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Appeal court upholds fine in ex-Customs boss' negligence case

The appeal court changed the ex-customs boss' conviction to one based on a lighter charge.

Tullin pääjohtaja Antti Hartikainen.
Antti Hartikainen Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

The Helsinki Appeals Court has determined that Antti Hartikainen, a former director of Finnish Customs, was guilty of negligent misconduct rather than official misconduct relating to a case dating back to 2015.

In 2018, the Helsinki district court ruled that the former Customs boss had to pay a fine of 1,000 euros after finding him guilty of official misconduct.

The court found that Hartikainen did not leave a meeting room during discussions regarding his wife's continued employment with the organisation, which presented a conflict of interest.

The Customs Steering Group meeting took place in November 2015, and concerned enhanced surveillance of the illegal importation of alcohol. Participants of the meeting decided to put all of the associated temporary work contracts out for tender.

Hartikainen's wife worked for the "Viinaralli" operation as a fixed-term customs officer at the time. No decision about who would be chosen to fill the positions was made in the meeting.

Hartikainen recused himself but failed to leave the meeting where his wife’s fixed-term employment was indirectly discussed.

Previous decision about intent overturned

Contrary to the previous district court decision, the appeal court found that Hartikainen was guilty of negligent misconduct, but that he had not acted deliberately.

The court noted that the decision to continue the enhanced monitoring was not originally on the meeting agenda and that Hartikainen was not told about the matter in advance.

He had to make a split decision about staying in the meeting to discuss the extra item, at which time he determined that it was not necessary to leave the room as long as he recused himself from the conversation. As it was, the court reports, the decision to continue the operation was made quickly and unanimously.

Even so, the appellate court found that Hartikainen's presence at the meeting may have compromised the objectivity of the decision, due to his high-ranking position.

The appellate court also determined that there was no justification for reducing the 10-day fine imposed by the lower court. Hartikainen had appealed the district court decision in May 2018, and denied that he had committed an offence in the Helsinki Appeals Court.

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