Renowned Finnish thespian and writer Veijo Baltzar is suspected of committing a raft of sexual and aggravated human trafficking offences between 1 August, 2004 and 19 November, 2019 according to a preliminary investigation by police.
The investigation by the Helsinki police department alleges that Baltzar’s victims were seven young women, some of whom were minors at the time the suspected crimes were committed.
The alleged offences took place in Helsinki, Espoo, Raseborg (Raasepori), Suonenjoki and Kuopio. According to the preliminary investigation, Baltzar is suspected of human trafficking and aggravated human trafficking, aggravated rape, aggravated child sexual abuse, rape, sexual abuse, assault and issuing unlawful threats.
Police said that the investigation, which took more than one year, was exceptionally large-scale and relied on statements from nearly 100 witnesses. An additional 50-odd people were also interviewed by phone in connection with the case.
Young women recruited to theatre
Police suspect that the 70-year-old writer became acquaintances with girls and young women in Helsinki and recruited them for theatre work through his cultural association.
They said he first enticed women to visit and spend time at his residence and eventually live there. He allegedly had several residences in the Helsinki region as well as a large dwelling in Ekenäs (Tammisaari).
He also allegedly had access to a residence in Kuopio, at least. Police said that Baltzar occupied these residences with two women who are suspected of being his accomplices in human trafficking. Varying numbers of young women also reportedly shared these homes with them.
"On the basis of the preliminary investigation police believe that by preying on the [alleged] victims’ insecure positions and their dependency -- and also by pressuring some of them -- the suspect recruited them into his community and put them up in different homes to make them targets of sexual abuse and/or forced labour in conditions that violated human dignity," lead investigator detective chief inspector Saara Asmundela said in a statement.
Women lived in fear
Investigators used the phrase "insecure position" to refer to the fact that all of the alleged victims were young -- although not all of them were minors -- and they had previously faced difficulties that they had shared with Baltzar. He was therefore aware of their vulnerable position, investigators argued.
Their dependency referred to the fact that among other things, they were reportedly financially dependent on the accused and also relied on him for housing. Some also worked for his theatre organisation. Police also said that Baltzar abused his position as a known cultural influencer.
Police said they suspect that while they lived in Baltzar’s homes, the young women had to abide by certain rules and regulations that he laid down. The rules of the community allegedly applied to how they dressed, their appearance, eating, movements and contact with external parties.
Investigators said that Baltzar’s suspected victims were isolated from their friends and families and were not allowed external contact. They also suspect that the victims also had a somewhat limited ability to attend school or study.
According to police the alleged victims were subjected to violence and an atmosphere of fear reigned in the community. Some of the women were also victims of sex crimes, they alleged.
Suspect pocketed women’s pay
While some of the women in the case worked for Baltzar’s cultural association, others did not. Police said that part of the salaries paid to the alleged victims were transferred to Baltzar’s account. In addition, the women reportedly had to work very long days without additional compensation or for free, and were not granted time off or holidays.
Police interviewed the alleged victims as well as a number of witnesses, the majority of whom were in some way involved in the suspect’s cultural association.
Baltzar was detained by police at his home in Ekenäs on 19 November last year. Police conducted a search of the residence the same day and took possession of a large amount of material, such as documents as well as photo and video evidence that was used in the investigation.
The Helsinki District Court remanded the suspect into pre-trial custody on 21 November, where he remains today.
According to police, two of the alleged victims of human trafficking and other offences are suspected of aiding and abetting human trafficking. One of them was remanded into custody in the early phases of the investigation but was later released when it emerged that she had been a victim of human trafficking for many years.
The case will now be referred to prosecutors for consideration of charges. The deadline for pressing charges is 18 November.