Finland’s National Emergency Supply Agency (Nesa) knew about businessman Onni Sarmaste's tax debts when it paid his company 4.9 million euros for a delivery of masks from China, according to an article (in Finnish) published on Tuesday in tabloid Ilta-Sanomat.
The masks were intended for use by healthcare workers, but the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland determined that the masks did not meet the standards required for hospital use after users reported allergic reactions and an odd smell.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) detained Sarmaste and an alleged accomplice in April on suspicion of fraud.
Sarmaste ran an instant-loan company before running up his own heavy debts. He has a long criminal record which includes assault, making threats, resisting arrest and drunk driving.
Ilta-Sanomat’s information is based on an internal report commissioned by Nesa, which included interviews with several members of the agency.
The report also indicated that Nesa employees knew Tiina Jylhä's company did not have a VAT identification number or a credit rating when it also received 5 million euros from the state in the mask deal, IS writes. Jylhä is a former reality TV personality currently running a plastic surgery business in Estonia.
The controversial deal led to the Nesa’s then Managing Director Tomi Lounema resigning from his post.