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PM Sipilä pledges to weigh potential conflict-of-interest situations in future

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä says that in the future he will evaluate potential conflict of interest situations on a case-by-case basis. However in a question and answer session with journalists, he rejected suggestions that he played any role in a supply contract between the state-owned Terrafame mine and an engineering firm owned by some of his relatives.

Juha Sipilä.
Juha Sipilä. Image: Jarno Kuusinen / AOP

Prime Minister Juha Sipilä has come under pressure to clarify his role following media reports that Katera Steel, an engineering company owned by his uncles and cousins had won a lucrative order from the taxpayer-funded Terrafame mine, formerly Talvivaara.

Sipilä’s children own five percent of the Kajaani-based engineering company through an investment holding company. Katera bid to supply the eastern Finland mine with ore conveyors worth 500,000 euros.

That was approved on 24 October. In November, government decided to fork out 100 million euros in additional financing for the beleaguered mine, saying that it had overcome the worst of its environmental headaches and was closer to finding a private investor.

On Saturday, opposition leader Antti Rinne of the Social Democratic Party and even Sipilä’s government partner Petteri Orpo of the National Coalition Party called for independent reviews of the circumstances.

Sipilä revealed that on Saturday morning he had also asked the Chancellor of Justice to determine whether or not there was a conflict of interest when he participated in the government’s decision on additional funding for the mine.

On Sunday, journalists took the opportunity to ask Sipilä to come clean on his role during the monthly Prime Minister’s Question Time radio forum. The PM was asked whether he intended to participate in future decisions affecting Terrafame, since the  revelations that his family benefited from a major order.

Sipilä: Family-owned firm won deal from state-owned mine in normal tender

Sipilä reiterated his position that Yle’s reporting on the matter contained serious claims that he as Prime Minister would try to influence a transaction between a state-owned company and a firm owned by his relatives.

"Of course I never did that. It’s quite obvious. The company beat its competitors in a normal tender process and got the deal that way. The financing decisions concerning Terrafame was based proposals by Terrafame and the Ministry for Employment and the Economy. There was nothing about subcontractors in them," Sipilä explained.

The premier went on to say that in the future, he would evaluate similar cases individually to determine whether or not there are links that could cause a conflict of interest. He added that it was for this reason that he gave up all of his business interests in 2013 – to avoid just this kind of situation.

Sipilä also mentioned some of the feedback he received following widespread media reports on the matter

"One MP said that he will suggest to the Constitutional Committee that the Prime Minister should not be allowed to have relatives."

EDIT 16.5.2017 - This story originally contained the following passage:

"Katera bid to supply the eastern Finland mine with ore conveyors in a deal worth 500,000 euros.

Just two weeks prior to the deal, government had decided to fork out 100 million euros in additional financing for the beleaguered mine, saying that it had overcome the worst of its environmental headaches and was closer to finding a private investor."

This has been corrected to read:

"Katera bid to supply the eastern Finland mine with ore conveyors worth 500,000 euros.

That was approved on 24 October. In November, government decided to fork out 100 million euros in additional financing for the beleaguered mine, saying that it had overcome the worst of its environmental headaches and was closer to finding a private investor."

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