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Estonian suspect freed in Airiston Helmi money laundering probe

A Russian man remains in custody on suspicion of aggravated tax fraud, while a suspected Estonian accomplice has been released.

Airiston Helmi -yrityksen omistama Säkkiluoto kuvattuna ilmasta.
One of the Airiston Helmi properties raided by authorities in September. Image: Yle

A 51-year-old Estonian man held in connection with the Airiston Helmi money laundering investigation has been released from pre-trial detention but remains a suspect. The other suspect, a 36-year-old Russian man, remains behind bars. The businessman, who also holds a Maltese passport and claims residence in Hungary, is suspected of aggravated tax fraud.

The chief investigator, Tomi Taskila of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), says that the other suspect must remain in detention in order to prevent him from disrupting the investigation. Police also believe he is a flight risk.

Taskila says that the Estonian is less likely to flee the country, as he has more ties to Finland. He is suspected of being an accessory to aggravated tax fraud. The Estonian had been jailed for two months.

Time-consuming international probe

Charges against the two men who worked at the real estate firm Airiston Helmi should normally be filed by the end of February, but Taskila says the preliminary investigation into white-collar crimes will not be complete by then.

"It would be easier if we were just gathering information domestically. But we need to track quite a lot of data and financial transactions abroad. These processes are quite slow,” he says.

The NBI has requested international assistance in regard to suspected money laundering by Airiston Helmi.

Charges in late 2019?

Taskila does not expect any possible charges to be filed against the men before next autumn at the earliest. The prosecutor must be allowed time for consideration of charges after police wrap up their probe. In the meantime, it will be up to the District Court of South-West Finland to decide on an extension on the time allowed for pressing charges.

The probe has been going on since late September, when authorities swooped down on a series of Airiston Helmi properties in the Turku archipelago, confiscating vast amounts of material, hundreds of devices and more than three million euros in cash.

Taskila estimates that the seized material adds up to twice as much as the NBI goes through in its investigations in an average year. He
declined to say how many people are being investigated or assisting with the probe.

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