Veteran politician Paavo Värynen has been expelled from Finland's Citizens' Party, according to an announcement released on March 3. The statement says that Värynen was dismissed from the party for his misuse of bank accounts and election funds.
"In addition to his financial impropriety, he has misused his status as a trusted member of the party's board and has pursued a competing political party's, the Centre Party's, chair position," the bulletin says.
Citizens' Party deputy chair Piia Kattelus confirmed that Väyrynen had been expelled, but would not comment further on the reasons for the expulsion. She says the party will arrange a press conference on Wednesday about the issue.
A long and coloured career
MEP Paavo Väyrynen left the Centre Party in early 2016 after five decades in prominent positions. Shortly after his departure, he founded the Citizens' Party. Väyrynen served as chair of the party until July 2017, when he was succeeded by Sami Kilpeläinen.
In January 2018, Väyrynen ran in Finland's presidential election as an independent candidate, finishing fourth with 6.2 percent of the vote.
Kilpeläinen told the STT news agency that the financial abuses in question are connected to Värynen's presidential campaign. He would not reveal any more details and would not say whether a criminal report has been filed.
He said Väyrynen had been asked several times in the month of February to clear up the money matters, but did not respond. The board of the Citizens' Party decided on Saturday to expel their founder.
Värynen was not present at this time, but Kilpeläinen says he was informed about the decision.
Väyrynen denies accusations
Värynen and his supporters claim the charges the Citizens' Party has levied against him are trumped up and his dismissal from the party is illegal. His support team, which includes Seppo Hauta-aho and Akseli Erkkilä, sent out an email Saturday afternoon that said Väyrynen would hold a press conference of his own on Monday.
Hauta-aho reportedly told STT that the sum of money in question amounts to 38,000 euros. Citizen's Party Chair Sami Kilpeläinen told Yle on Saturday afternoon that the financial misconduct is "not an isolated, small incident" and is a matter of a "five-figure" sum.
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä commented briefly on Saturday from the new panda house in Ähtäri, Finland, saying that the Citizens' Party had to sort things out on its own. He said Paavo Väyrynen's expulsion from the Citizens' Party "does not affect Centre Party activities in any way."
Edited at 1:47 pm to include comments from Väyrynen and Sipilä, and again at 4:12 pm to add the reported sum of the misused funds.