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Police reprimand minister’s rep who hid in car boot to avoid reporters

A ministerial state secretary received a slap on the wrist for riding in a car boot to cover up a meeting with Prime Minister Juha Sipilä.

Jussi Halla-aho, Samuli Virtanen.
At right is Finns Party group state secretary Samuli Virtanen, accompanied by recently-elected chair Jussi Halla-aho (left) during a break in government reconstitution talks at PM Juha Sipilä's official residence, Hesäranta, on 12 June. Image: Antti Aimo-Koivisto / Lehtikuva

Police have issued a verbal reprimand to a man said to have travelled in a car boot in the vicinity of Prime Minister Juha Sipilä’s official residence Kesäranta on 11 June.

While police would not name the individual, media reports suggest that the man is Samuli Virtanen, state secretary for Foreign Minister and ex-Finns Party chair Timo Soini.

Virtanen had allegedly previously met with Prime Minister Juha Sipilä, and sought to discreetly exit the meeting by riding in the boot of a car.

Police say that their preliminary investigation concluded that the man clambered into the boot of the car and travelled concealed for several dozen metres on a public road without observing traffic safety laws on the use of a seatbelt.

Officers said that the man admitted to the offence.

Chief Inspector Pekka Seppälä of the Helsinki police department said that a verbal reprimand was an adequate response to the offence.

"Kesärannantie is a public road but in practice, traffic only goes to one property, so there is quite little traffic. No one but the suspect was put in harm's way," Seppälä added.

The police action was first reported by the Social Democratic Party organ Demokraatti.

Clandestine moves to shore up government

The reason for the cloak and dagger move had been to avoid a gaggle of reporters gathered at the gates of the PM's residence. The preceding day, on 10 June, party delegates had elected immigration hardliner Jussi Halla-aho to replace Soini as party leader, throwing the balance of Sipilä’s three-party coalition government into doubt.

In a recently-published exposé, Lännen Media political journalist Lauri Nurmi claimed that despite denials the government had a back-up plan in the event that hardline elements grabbed power in Finns Party leadership elections, the administration was preparing for just such a possibility.

Virtanen's meeting with Sipilä was allegedly part of preparations to ensure the continuation of the government and his clandestine exit in the car trunk was an effort to cover up the behind-the-scenes manoeuvring.

Soini and a group of 19 other MPs eventually broke with the Finns Party and formed a new parliamentary group and political party now known as Blue Reform, which is a junior member of Sipilä’s three-party government coalition.

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