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Friday's papers: Huge drug case, pop star's drug use and Pukki is Athlete of the Year

Prosecutors charged 53 suspects in a drug case, Sunrise Avenue singer admits to drug use and #PukkiParty reaches a peak.

Teemu Pukki
Finnish football star Teemu Pukki. Image: Lehtikuva /Jussi Nukari

Latest developments in the major drug-smuggling operation between Finland, Netherlands and Spain dominated the Finnish press on Friday.

Tabloid Ilta Sanomat reports that prosecutors have charged a total of 53 individuals for a wide range of drug and doping offences including aggravated drug and doping offences and money laundering.

The suspects include Niko Ranta-aho, who is active in the restaurant and real estate business in Spain, his partner and social media fitness influencer Sofia Belórf, and ex-boss of Finland’s Cannonball motorcycle gang Janne "Nacci" Tranberg. Ilta Sanomat reports that Ranta-aho has also been charged with assaulting his partner Belórf according to district court records.

It was earlier reported that the crime syndicate is suspected of smuggling a wide array of substances into Finland, including more than 200 kilos of amphetamines, 60 kilos of hash, 15 kilos of cocaine, more than 30 kilos of MDMA and over 100,000 ecstasy tablets, some 20,000 LSD tabs, two kilos of crystal meth and about two million pharmaceutical pills.

Ilta Sanomat reports that the long list of accused includes individuals from entrepreneurs and high-profile family members to those with underworld influence.

The prosecutor and Helsinki District Court have not yet disclosed the full details of the offences that are being prosecuted or the extent of each suspect’s involvement. The charges have been reportedly divided into four categories, most of which involve Ranta-aho, Tranberg and Belórf.

Other accused include Hell's Angels kingpin Jarkko Laakso, former president of Cannonball, Ari Ronkainen and Finnish bodybuilding champ Kimmo Niemi. Many of the accused who are between 25-40 years old are closely linked to the Tampere region and still run businesses there.

The Helsinki District Court will begin the hearings on 30 January.

Pop star linked to drug case

In related news, Helsinki District Court charged Finnish popstar Samu Haber with narcotics offences which are allegedly linked to the massive drug operation, according to tabloid Iltalehti. Haber who is a singer, songwriter, television music competition judge, entrepreneur and the frontman of pop band Sunrise Avenue is suspected of committing the drug offences last summer.

A repentant Haber took to social media to admit that "In summer 2019, I attended an after party and I admit having a small dose of drugs there, offered to me for free." However, the entertainer told Iltalehti that he is not guilty of a narcotics offence and denies any links to the drug smuggling ring.

"I am not guilty of any crime and this will become clear during this trial," Haber told Iltalehti in a phone call. He said that the charge took him by surprise and that he is "not involved in any business in this field."

Haber apologised to his fans in the Instagram post. "Doing drugs is a crime and it's wrong. Imposing a penalty for that is absolutely right. I’ve been really stupid and there are no excuses. I will learn from this. I apologise [for] my behaviour to my beloved ones, the band, partners and everyone who might think of me as some sort of a role model."

Pukki is Athlete of the Year

The social media hashtag #PukkiParty was trending on Finland on Thursday night as Finland’s favourite football star Teemu Pukki was awarded Athlete of the Year at the Finnish Sports Gala 2020 in Helsinki.

Daily Helsingin Sanomat reports that the 29-year-old footballer is only the third team athlete to win this title after football players Jari Litmanen in 1995 and Sami Hyypiä in 2001.

"I'm extremely proud of this award and I’m grateful to my teammates and family. And my lovely wife, thank you for giving me the opportunity to do my best on the football field every day," Pukki said at the event held in the Hartwall Arena.

The striker for English football club Norwich City said in an interview that the buzz around football in FInland is exciting. “With more viewers watching us, our morale is boosted,” Pukki said.

Helsingin Sanomat published a list of titles awarded at the gala some of which were coach of the year Markku Kanerva, who is the current manager of the Finnish national team, sports association of the year Lahden Suunnistajat-37 (orienteering) and young athlete of the year hockey player Kaapo Kakko — among many others.

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