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PM Sipilä cleared of favouring companies owned by relatives

Finnish premier Juha Sipilä has now been cleared of wrongdoing in two cases where he was suspected of favouring companies owned by his family members.

Sipilä was previously an advisor to the Oulu-based biofuel firm Chempolis. Image: YLE / Antti Pylväs

Deputy Chancellor of Justice Risto Hiekkataipale says that Prime Minister Juha Sipilä did not act improperly in regard to Chempolis, a company partly owned by his children.

Hiekkataipale said on Thursday that Sipilä did not have a conflict of interest when he led a Finnish business delegation to India in February 2016 that included the firm.

During the trip, Chempolis announced an investment deal with an Indian company. Complaints were filed with the Chancellor of Justice's office following a report on the trip in the tabloid Iltalehti. The complainants suspected that Sipilä had unfairly favoured Chempolis or tried to influence its negotiations with the Indian firm.

10m euros in state support

"Prime Minister Sipilä's skipping the visit because of the participation of a company of which his children own about five percent would have in the view of the Deputy Chancellor of Justice been a rather far-fetched measure to ensure that public suspicions would not be aroused about the prime minister's impartiality," the Office of the Chancellor of Justice said in a statement.

It notes that Sipilä did not influence or participate in the process of selecting the firms included on the visit. Sipilä was previously a shareholder in and advisor to the Oulu-based biofuel firm.

Yle’s investigative journalism programme MOT found that over the course of 15 years, Chempolis received more than 10 million euros in state funding and other support from funds owned by the Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra and the state-owned export credit company Finnvera.

No support for Fortum suspicions, either

After the story of Chempolis's Indian deal came to light, media reports also revealed that the majority-state-owned energy giant Fortum made a major investment in Chempolis last autumn, which essentially rescued the failing firm. There were complaints suggesting that Sipilä might have played a role in this decision.

"The Deputy Chancellor of Justice did not find any support for such suspicions. Fortum made the decision based on purely business reasons," the office said.

In early February, the Parliamentary Ombudsman cleared Sipilä of allegations that he had made decisions that benefited another company owned by his relatives. That case stemmed from Katera Steel's landing of a half-million-euro contract from the state-owned mining concern Terrafame, formerly known as Talvivaara.

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