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Ex-Nokian Tyres employees to go on trial over stolen secrets

Former employees of scandal-hit tyre manufacture Nokian Tyres are to go on trial this summer over apparently leaked documents relating to the firm’s product development arm. Last week it was announced that the firm had attempted to manipulate tests run by motoring media organisations by sending modified tyres to be tested.

Nokian Renkaiden renkaita myymälässä
Former Nokian tyres employees go on trial in June. Image: Yle

Ten ex-employees of Nokian Tyres are to go on trial this summer accused of stealing confidential information from the company. One employee of a sub-contractor has already confessed to theft of information in a trial last November, but the ten deny wrong-doing and will face a full trial this year.

The information was leaked to the Black Donuts Engineering firm, a company set up by workers who had been made redundant from the research and development arm of Nokian Tyres. The man who admitted leaking it was given a 14 month suspended jail sentence.

"Preliminary hearings for the others will be held in mid-June," said district court judge Kimmo Valkiala.

Behind closed doors

Most of the proceedings of the November trial are sealed and confidential, and at least some of June’s court case will also be held behind closed doors.

The cases relate to information Nokian Tyres says was taken in 2010 and 2011. The firm says it was then leaked to Black Donuts, whose CEO is the former head of Research and Development at Nokian Tyres and which was founded by former Nokian Tyres staff.

Their former employer made a criminal complaint in autumn 2011, but it has taken several years to investigate the thousands of documents alleged to have been leaked.

Millions in compensation

"We’ll finesse the figure a little further, but in any case we’ll be asking for several million euros in compensation," said Nokian Tyres Marketing and Communications director Antti-Jussi Tähtinen.

The November trial was the first of a new kind of trial in Finland that entered the statute books in 2015. Defendants can plead guilty in return for lighter sentences, with the deals especially intended for white-collar crime.

Violent crime and crimes entailing sentences of more than six years are not eligible for the plea-bargain type treatment. Some 60 such trials have been held so far, according to the state prosecutor’s office.

Last week it emerged that Nokian Tyres had systematically attempted to manipulate the results of tests run by motoring media organisations. The company had sent modified tyres that weren't in production for the tests. Those products available at retailers performed much worse than the special test tyres.

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