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Criminal investigation of Youth Foundation expands to suspicions of fraud

A criminal investigation of the Centre Party-affiliated student housing company has expanded to include more suspects and aggravated crimes.

Kerrostalo
One of the foundation's over 4,000 housing blocks is located in Lahti. Image: Sini Ojanperä / Yle

Investigation of the Youth Foundation (Nuorisosäätiö), a Centre Party-linked agency specializing in student housing blocks, has expanded to encompass more suspects and potential charges. Law enforcement suspects the former management of embezzling millions of euros of the firm's assets via shady investments in Estonia.

According to the national broadcaster Yle's MOT programme, former foundation directors Aki Haaro and Perttu Nousiainen are now both suspected of bribery and aggravated fraud, among other things. The new leadership of the foundation has also stated its intentions to submit an investigation request to the Estonian police.

The investigation began last year when the police began to examine ex-CEO Haaro and ex-board chair Nousiainen on suspicion of engaging in bribery. Both men subsequently stepped down from their positions.

The newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported in early August that the National Board of Patents and Registration claims the men pilfered money by negotiating inflated real estate and land deals in Estonia with the foundation's construction firm business partner, Salpausselän Rakentajat.

Yle says it has been unable to reach Haaro or Nousiainen for comment.

PM denies crimes have any link to Centre Party

When the news that Haaro would be stepping down broke in March, Prime Minister Juha Sipilä denied having any knowledge of the developments at the foundation.

A number of Centre Party figures have held top posts at the Youth Foundation, including former Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen and the party’s current parliamentary leader, Antti Kaikkonen. Kaikkonen received a five-month suspended prison sentence five years ago for abusing his foundation position to arrange campaign funding for his fellow Centre Party candidates.

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