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Ex-leader of police 'Bear Squad' sentenced to prison for aggravated fraud

The former deputy head of the Police Special Intervention Unit was found guilty of cheating his own department.

Poliisin hihamerkki
The former officer helped a firm that sold security gear to law enforcement agencies. Image: Marja Väänänen / Yle

Helsinki District Court has sentenced Timo Olavi Lillqvist, former deputy director of the Helsinki Police Special Intervention Unit, to two and a half years in prison on a variety of counts.

The charges included aggravated fraud and aggravated misuse of an official position. He bilked his own department out of money in collaboration with the director of a firm selling security products.

Now-retired police sergeant Lillqvist, 60, was among the top brass at the Police Special Intervention Unit, a SWAT team known as the 'Bear Squad' (Karhuryhmä).

Also sent to prison was Olli Tapio Salo, 60, CEO and owner of a Helsinki security equipment company called Finnrappel. Likewise convicted on fraud charges, Salo received a prison sentence two months shorter than Lillqvist's.

The company, established in 1994, sold products to police departments, the Border Guard, Customs and private individuals.

Lillqvist provided Salo with insider information about competing companies' bids to supply the Bear Squad with equipment, giving Finnrappel a competitive advantage.

When the sales were processed, the two together concocted invoices through which Helsinki Police overpaid the firm by more than 150,000 euros. The bills included items that were not delivered and others at marked-up prices, to the financial benefit of the police sergeant.

Sniper targets and body bags

According to its website, which was last updated in mid-2018, Finnrappel sold a wide variety of military and police-style gear ranging from rifle scopes and human sniper targets to body bags, eavesdropping detection devices and portable toilets. The site includes a link to an group honouring the White side of the 1918 Finnish Civil War, as well as US gun-rights memes.

The court found that Lillqvist had a central, independent role in the Bear Squad's equipment procurement, including the bidding process. At the same time, he served as the liaison between his unit and Finnrappel.

Evidence included emails between him and Salo, in which the officer dictated product volumes, prices and invoicing. The court ruled that the messages included euphemistic discussions about transferring the ill-gotten gains to bank accounts controlled by Lillqvist, and to him directly in cash.

Both deny breaking any laws. They have the right to appeal the rulings.

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