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"I have a lot more to give" Finland's top prosecutor says in first interview since nepotism conviction

Finland's Prosecutor General Matti Nissinen, who was found guilty and ordered to pay fines for official misconduct last month, said that before his conviction he had an unblemished career.

Matti Nissinen
File photo of Finland's Prosecutor General Matti Nissinen. Image: Markku Pitkänen / Yle

In December Finland's Supreme Court sentenced the country's prosecutor-in-chief to fines for official misconduct related to his having commissioned some 74,000 euros worth of training services from his brother over several years during 2010-2015. In its decision the court said it was a clear case of conflict of interest.

The case also marked the first time in Finland's history in which the top prosecutor faced the Supreme Court as a defendant. Nissinen admitted that he was guilty of negligent misconduct but said his actions were not intentional.

Despite the conviction, Nissinen did not lose his job — a decision regarding his future at the Prosecutor's Office is expected to be made by the Justice Ministry.

Not trying to look like a victim

In his first media interview since the Supreme Court ruling, Nissinen was asked why he wanted to continue as top prosecutor despite his nepotism conviction.

"I have tried to condense the reasons in the report that I recently gave to the Justice Ministry. It's all based on a desire to develop the prosecution service and the belief that I still have a lot to give," he said on Yle's Aamu-tv breakfast programme on Friday.

When asked why he hasn't spoken to the media until now, he said: "I've been advised to not try to make myself look like a victim, and that's advice I plan to follow. But now in my new role, I've been able to observe the legal process from the inside; from another point of view, so I thought that it would be good to talk about it," he told Yle.

He said the whole ordeal had been difficult and there was no shortage of negative emotions.

"I have felt anxiety, shame, frustration and irritation. I have noticed quite a few new negative feelings in myself," he said.

The most difficult part, he said, was how it affected his family. He said it was particularly hard due to erroneous information about the matter that had been published in the media.

Sympathy for ex-Tango king

Now it's up to the Justice Ministry to decide his future at the prosecutor's office.

"I'm calmly awaiting the decision. I'm certain the Minister of Justice has the adequate legal expertise so that it is settled in an objective and fair manner. I have tried to mentally prepare myself for all outcomes," he said.

Nissinen has submitted a written statement about his prospects of continuing as chief prosecutor to the Ministry of Justice.

"My career in government service has lasted for nearly 36 years, and before the ruling it was one free of offenses and beyond reproach," Nissinen wrote to the ministry.

Last November Finland's biggest daily Helsingin Sanomat surveyed all of Finland's prosecutors, asking whether they thought Nissinen should leave his post following the conviction.

Some 79.6 percent of the prosecutors who answered the question said they thought he should leave the job while just 6.3 percent of the prosecutors said he should remain.

Referring to a question about his reaction to several legal scholars' opinions that he should leave his job, Nissinen told Yle: "I won't comment on that. I've made my own decision and they have another view about the matter."

Nissinen said he did not want to directly criticise the media for the broad coverage of his case. However, since his case went public he said he better understands how the spotlight of the media affects defendants in the public eye.

"For instance, I've thought a lot about the reporting about Jari Sillanpää [Finland's one-time Tango King who has faced intense media scrutiny for a recent drugs possession charge] and the drugs case. I'm not familiar with the music industry, and I don't know Jari Sillanpää. But I think I know how he has felt, more power to him!" Nissinen said.

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