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Court drops all charges in €135m money laundering case

Police were alerted in 2014 after the money made the rounds through several Finnish construction company bank accounts.

Helsingin käräjäoikeus
The Helsinki District Court is located in Sompasaari. Image: Henrietta Hassinen / Yle

The Helsinki District Court decided on Tuesday to drop all charges in a case in which two men were suspected of laundering of over 135 million euros in Finland.

Police began to investigate the incident in 2014 after Finnish banks noticed that over 100 million euros passed through the bank accounts of several Finnish construction firms for a four-month period.

Suspicions focused on a project to build a new privately-funded motorway to Russia's Karelia region. The suspects in the case admitted in court on Tuesday that the cost of the massive infrastructure project would have risen to 400 or 500 million euros, if it had been completed. As it was, the project was never even started.

According to prosecutors, the project was a disguise for laundering illicitly obtained Russian money, and the accused never intended to design or build a motorway. They argued that the money originated from a Russian shell company and bank that were shut down over money laundering suspicions. After its brief visit to Helsinki, the money ended up in 22 countries and over 250 businesses, the prosecution stated.

Court: Criminal origin not established

Among other things, the district court determined that the source of the money could not be used to establish if the assets had a criminal origin.

The court also ruled that the mere transfer of funds from a company with a false name or short existence, as the prosecutor in the case argued, is not sufficient grounds to make the assets being transferred criminal in origin.

The Helsinki District Court decided to reject the charges for these reasons, among others. The Finnish State will now be required to pay the lawyer fees of the defendants, a sum that runs into tens of thousands.

The seizure of a company that was set up in Finland to facilitate the project, HTR Talonrakennus, must also be rescinded, the court ruled.

The court's decision concerning the two Estonian nationals that were suspects in the case is not final, and can still be appealed to a higher court. During the police investigation, the two men denied having committed a crime. Charges were never filed against the main suspect in the case, a Russian national.

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