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Court clamps temporary ban on United Brotherhood gang

A permanent prohibition may be imposed this spring.

United Brotherhoodin johtajana pidetty Tero Holopainen (vas.) rikollisjärjestö United Brotherhoodin lakkauttamiskanteen valmisteluoikeudenkäynnissä Itä-Uudenmaan käräjäoikeudessa Porvoossa 8. tammikuuta.
Purported UB leader Tero Holopainen (left) with his lawyer Ilkka Ukkonen at Eastern Uusimaa District Court in Porvoo on 8 January. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Eastern Uusimaa District Court in Porvoo has placed a temporary ban on all activities by the criminal organisation United Brotherhood (UB).

Police and prosecutors had sought the operating ban against UB and an affiliate called Bad Union. Authorities say that UB members are heavily armed and have been committing crimes on a continuous basis.

The court declared that expert statements demonstrate that UB is a national organised criminal group that carries out operations through a hierarchical, paramilitary structure.

It was also found to be vehemently anti-authoritarian, to have sought to control prison populations and to earn profits through illicit means.

Permanent ban in the offing

"This is not a question of individual acts, but rather of continuous organised activity that exhibits disregard for legal restrictions," the statement said.

The temporary ban took effect immediately, and cannot be appealed. A court will consider a permanent prohibition of all UB activities this spring.

Police will soon issue guidelines for how the proscription will be enforced.

Inspector Teemu Saukoniemi of the National Police Board said that law enforcement officers may impose fines for any organisational activity and confiscate UB vests and other gang paraphernalia.

"This guidebook will be public so everyone can see how the police are intervening," he said.

Insignia used for intimidation

Lauri Tarasti, a former Supreme Administrative Court Justice and Justice Ministry legal counsel, told Yle on Friday that the decision would prevent the use of gang insignia, which is apparently important to the group. However it would not, he said, prevent members from gathering or setting up a new organisation.

"But they will not be allowed to hold meetings of the outlawed group," Tarasti explained.

Story continues after photo

United Brotherhood -jengin tunnusliivi.
UB members wear leather vests with red and black insignia. Image: Poliisi

Police say that the UB has used its black-and-red vests and other insignia as means of intimidation when collecting alleged debts, for instance.

"This kind of ban doesn't stop individuals from committing crimes, but we have observed that they consider their insignia and way of operating as critical success factors. One could imagine that banning them will have some limiting effect on them anyway," Saukoniemi said.

Claim of UB shutdown "not credible"

Just before the trial began in early January, the UB issued a statement claiming that they were closing down all operations. Police and prosecutors did not consider the announcement to be credible. The District Court will consider the statement later in the proceedings.

"This kind of ban doesn't stop individuals from committing crimes, but we have observed that they consider their insignia and way of operating as critical success factors. One could imagine that banning them will have some limiting effect on them anyway," Saukoniemi said.

Just before the trial began in early January, the UB issued a statement claiming that they were closing down all operations. Police and prosecutors did not consider the announcement to be believable. The District Court will consider the statement later in the proceedings.

The UB trial is expected to set an important legal precedent. In the past, similar decisions have been used to close down other organisations such as the neo-Nazi PVL. That case is still awaiting a final decision from the Supreme Court.

Police say that UB has about 100 members, most of whom are in prison – although authorities note that this does not prevent them from carrying out further crimes.

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