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Charges for 10 in 1.6M-euro Turku parking fee embezzlement scam

The suspects are believed to have made off with an estimated 875,000 euros in stolen parking fees between 2007 and 2017 but city officials suspect up to 1.6 million may have been plundered.

Kolikkoja
Police confiscated coins valued at thousands of euros during a months-long investigation. Image: Poliisi

The office of the Southwest Finland district Prosecutor has filed charges against 10 persons suspected of aggravated embezzlement, aggravated theft, concealment and aggravated money laundering.

Two of the accused worked for the city of Turku as parking wardens, another had also been a city employee.

Seven others had a hand in concealing the stolen parking fees, as well as changing and using the illicit funds.

Months-long investigation bears fruit

Investigations into the complex case began last autumn, when police uncovered a connection with another case under investigation that involved large sums of cash.

The case was handed over to the National Bureau of Investigation NBI, where police suspected that two persons working for the city had stolen and misappropriated funds from parking machines and from locked collection bins while on duty. Accounting records suggested that some parking machines came up short by up to thousands of euros in a single day.

In addition to the two people on the city payroll, police identified a third individual who had also worked for the city previously. The work of all three involved emptying and maintaining parking machines around the city. All three are suspected of aggravated embezzlement and aggravated larceny.

In February, lead NBI investigator Markus Laine said that the group siphoned off the parking fees regularly – if not daily, then weekly. Between 2007 and 2017, they made off with an estimated 875,000 euros. However the criminal activity was believed to have begun as far back as the 1990s, so the actual sums stolen may be larger, police believe. According to information from the city of Turku, the plundered funds may amount to some 1.6 million euros.

During their preliminary investigation, police uncovered seven other suspects believed to have committed aggravated money laundering and concealment offences. Police say these individuals are suspected of covering the tracks of the criminal source of the cash or stashing away the ill-gotten gains.

Severance after internal probe

In March, city officials wrapped up an internal investigation into the matter. The probe led to the sacking of one individual – two others had been similarly let go previously. In addition to this city authorities issued a reprimand to four other employees and a warning to a fifth.

The internal probe revealed major shortcomings in how officials responsible for parking fee collection managed cash handling and organised operations, as well as managing keys and financial matters.

The city wants the perpetrators of the criminal acts to be penalised and will present a claim for damages during trial.

Turku currently has about 150 parking machines that generate a total of about 3.5 million euros annually.

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