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Court dismisses charges in HOK-Elanto bribery case

Prosecutors charged that 700,000 euros in bribes were given to an executive over the course of several years.

 HOK-Elannon entinen kiinteistöjohtaja Jari Leivo Helsingin käräjäoikeudessa 23. lokakuuta 2017.
The former property director at HOK-Elanto, Jari Leivo. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

On Monday Helsinki District Court dismissed numerous bribery charges involving a former executive from the HOK-Elanto business cooperative and more than a dozen other defendants, citing lack of evidence.

At the centre of the major case was the former property director at HOK-Elanto, Jari Leivo, who faced charges of receiving bribes valued at around 700,000 euros over the course of seven years.

The bribes were alleged to have been given in the form of sponsorship money for equestrian sports intended for Leivo's daughter.

The case was expansive, involving a preliminary investigation that police opened in 2012 and charges being filed in 2016. Prosecutors accused Leivo of accepting bribes from a construction company in exchange for taking on potential projects from January 2005 until April 2012.

Monday's decision is not yet final, as prosecutors still have the opportunity to appeal the case. But if and when the ruling is finalised and enforceable, the state would be obligated to pay the defendants' legal costs, a total of some 2.3 million euros. The legal costs of Leivo alone amounted to more than 384,000 euros.

Inadequate evidence, with two exceptions

Altogether 13 people were accused of giving the bribes, but five of those faced aggravated charges. The defendants worked at several firms, including construction companies Skanska and Caverion Finland, as well as architectural firm Innovarch.

All of the defendants denied the charges, claiming that the equestrian sport sponsorship was unrelated to the former executive's role at HOK-Elanto. The defendants testified that the payments were not made for their personal benefit.

The prosecution had demanded that the involved firms face corporate fines, but those demands were also thrown out by the court.

The court said there was insufficient evidence for convictions to be handed down.

Prosecutor Tuire Tamminiemi told Yle it's likely she will take the case to the court of appeal.

However, the court did find a former boss at Skanska - as well as a real estate company representative - guilty of aggravated fraud. The court found that Skanska had made unauthorised payments of around 37,000 euros to the real estate firm, which was a Skanska subcontractor.

Both of those defendants were handed ten-month suspended jail sentences.

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