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Former air force top brass fined for misconduct over training drills

One of the complainants in the case said that alcohol played a role in the voluntary refresher course.

Sampo Eskelinen ja Markus Päiviö
The Helsinki Court of Appeal fined former Air Force Commander Sampo Eskelinen (left) as well as ex-head of the Karelian Air Command Markus Päiviö on Tuesday. Image: Pekka Tynell, Jouni Immonen / Yle

The Helsinki Court of Appeal has sentenced former air force commanders to pay fines over misconduct, abuse of power, breach of service and defamation during voluntary training exercises at the Karelian Air Command in September 2017.

On Tuesday the court found former Commander of the Karelian Air Command Markus Päiviö guilty of abuse of his position as a superior, breach of service and defamation and sentenced him to a 60-day fine, the equivalent of 3,000 euros.

The prosecution had initially called for a sentence of between 60 and 80 day fines. Päiviö’s attorney, Pentti Laiho, said that his client was not surprised by the outcome.

"The decision was as expected. He was prepared for it," he added.

Court: Air Command head humiliated subordinates

In its judgment, the court declared that as director of the training exercises, Päiviö had acted inappropriately and improperly in word and deed by insulting other participants on different occasions.

The court said that he had referred to air command personnel as "gay wankers" and had also insulted the air command chief of staff. Päiviö also reportedly berated the mayor of the eastern city of Nurmes, Asko Saatsia, calling him "Finland’s crappiest mayor".

Saatsia, one of the complainants in the case, had previously gone on record as saying that alcohol played a role in the voluntary refresher course.

The appellate court ruled that by using such language, the former air commander had treated his subordinates in a degrading manner and was guilty of abusing his position as a senior officer. It ordered Päiviö to pay Saatsia 1,200 euros in damages.

1.7K fine for ex-air force commander

Another defendant in the case, former Finnish Air Force commander Sampo Eskelinen, was found guilty of breach of service and sentenced to a 30-day fine, amounting to 1,770 euros. The prosecution had demanded a 20- to 50-day fine for Eskelinen, Päiviö’s former boss.

Eskelinen was suspected of breach of duty for delaying an investigation into the conduct of then-head of the Karelian Air Command, Päiviö during the course.

Eskelinen’s lawyer Heikki Maunila said that the ruling took his client by surprise and that he was somewhat confused by the outcome.

However the court found that at the latest by September-October of 2017, Eskelinen had reason to suspect that Päiviö was guilty of military offences.

It wasn't until December of the same year that the former air force commander requested a preliminary investigation into Päiviö's actions.

The court found that this delay was deliberate, however it said that there was no reason to suspect that Eskelinen's failure to act promptly was due to a desire to protect the Karelian Air Command chief.

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