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Court: WinCapita accomplices must return profits

The City of Vantaa’s District Court ruled that even though participants in WinCapita, regarded as Finland’s largest Ponzi scheme in history, were not aware of the sham investment firm’s criminal intentions, they nevertheless benefited from the illegal operations of others and must therefore return their profits.

Hannu Kailajärvi käräjäoikeudessa helmikuussa 2014.
Hanna Kailajärvi was found guilty in 2013 of masterminding an illegal pyramid scheme. Image: Pertti Huotari / Yle

Vantaa’s District Court reached a verdict on Wednesday in a trial of 27 former WinCapita investment club members, four of whom were accused of either aggravated fraud or assisting in the act of aggravated fraud.  

The Court dismissed the criminal charges, but the accused will not go without some consequences for their actions, as 25 of the defendants were found by the District Court to benefit from the crimes of others, in which case the proceeds of the crime must be return to the State.

The defendants will therefore be required to repay 1.17 million euros to the Finnish State. The largest individual amounts to be repaid will total 423,000 and 265,000 euros.

The Court mitigated the repayment amounts for some of the defendants, because for most, the sum to be relinquished was in the thousands or tens of thousands of euros.  

The District Court’s decision to dismiss the criminal charges was founded on the fact that none of the persons accused acted with criminal intention, as they were themselves also mistaken about WinCapita’s true nature.

Finland's biggest Ponzi scheme

From 2005-2008, WinCapita, also known as WinClub and GiiClub, presented itself as an invitation-only foreign exchange investment club promising four-fold returns on initial thousand-euro investments. Over 10,000 people invested more than 100 million euros in the firm.

In March 2008, the National Bureau of Investigation started looking into the club’s operations. The chief suspect Hannu Kailajärvi was found hiding out in a cottage in Sweden in December 2008. In December 2011, the District Court of Vantaa found him guilty of aggravated fraud and sentenced him to four years in prison.

In February 2013, the Court of Appeal of Helsinki found Kailajärvi guilty of aggravated fraud and a money collection offence, and increased his prison sentence to five years. The verdict was upheld by Finland’s Supreme Court.

Claims for damages arising from the case amount to near 37 million euros.

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