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Finns naive about corruption

Although Finland is the least corrupt country in the world according to an index by Transparency International, structural corruption is common enough here. On the municipal level corruption is especially rife, according to new PhD research.

Juuso Oilinki
Inspector Juuso Oilinki from the National Bureau of Investigation. Image: Yle

The Police College of Finland reported some 500 corruption crimes between 2007 and 2010. Suspected bribery cases accounted for about 20 of these annually.

Juuso Oilinki, a National Bureau of Investigation inspector specialised in corruption, says Finland has been naive when it comes to corruption. One of the reasons for this is that long-established ways of operating are not perceived as illegal. Even officials often fail to recognise corruption.

The municipal sector is a real locus of corruption. A typical case involves a decision-maker contracting jobs to entrepreneurs within their close circle of acquaintances, as well as paying too little or too much for the work. Decision-makers commonly justify their actions by saying that the interests of the municipality and the contracted company coincide.

“This justification [of interests of both parties being served] is used to account for so much”, notes corruption researcher Pasi Laine.

Intimidated whistle-blowers

Laine is writing his PhD thesis on corrupt leadership. For his work, the doctor candidate has interviewed influential leaders, civil servants and crime suspects in municipalities as well as in companies.

According to Laine’s research, the risk of corruption grows with long-term positions of power, small localities, and a climate of trust developed in closely knit networks.

As everyone tends to know each other on municipal level, it takes a lot of courage to report possible misconduct to the police. Laine claims to have uncovered questionable practices in Finland, where informants are fired as revenge for disclosing details on old boy networks.  

“People who have something to loose or be afraid of can react strongly to a person who talks about these things”, Laine muses.

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