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Police suspect climate group of fundraising violations

Police have filed for a court order for the sequestration of assets of the association supporting the Elokapina climate protest movement over suspected violations of fundraising laws.

Poliisit ja Elokapinan mielenosoittajat ovat vastakkain Eduskuntatalon edessä iltapimeällä.
Protesters have blocked streets in the Finnish capital during several of Elokapina's demonstrations. Image: Petteri Sopanen / Yle

Helsinki District Court on Wednesday took a police filing under consideration which calls for the sequestration of assets of Elonvaalijat, the registered association which supports Elokapina - the Finnish branch of the environmental group Extinction Rebellion.

Although Elonvaalijat does not hold any decision-making power within the Elokapina group, association member Ville Saarinen told Yle that it "helps by arranging financial support for the climate activist movement and managing personal registers in compliance with data protection laws".

Police say that they have reason to suspect the association of violating fundraising laws.

The sum of assets which police have asked the court to sequester is not yet known. A decision in the case is expected on 12 October.

Elokapina is an activist group that has organised protests to pressure the government to declare a climate emergency in Finland. It has blocked streets in Helsinki during several demonstrations to draw attention to its demands for action against climate change.

Two suspected violations

Police suspect that the Elonvaalijat association has exceeded its maximum number of approved fundraising notifications which are required before public collections can be legally made.

Two separate suspected fundraising violations are under investigation. According to the police, one took place in Helsinki between 26 April to 18 June 2021, and the other on 15 September, also in Helsinki.

The head of the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Juha-Matti Suominen has declined to say which of the association's representatives are under investigation, nor has he revealed the sum of assets that police have asked the court to sequester.

The action is likely to target to a few thousand euros, as the maximum sum that may be collected through the type of small fundraising declaration used by the association is 10,000 euros.

Sequestration of assets is a standard procedure in the investigation of suspected crimes. It is aimed to ensure that if a crime is proven, any criminal proceeds can be seized.

Last week, the newspaper Iltalehti reported that Helsinki Deputy Police Chief Heikki Kopperoinen had refused to allow investigators to apply for the sequestration of Elonvaalijat assets.

In an interview with the paper, Kopperoinen said his decision was about "coordinating" the activities of the police department. During the same week, the police were making preparations to deal with a protest by climate activists which included a plan to block Helsinki's main central thoroughfare.

EDIT NOTE added on 19.10.2021 at 15:43 to clarify Elonvaalijat's role in relation to Elokapina, and that it supports but does not organise the group's activities.

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