The Helsinki District Court began hearing the case of three top police officers and the head of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) accused of official misconduct in managing a database of police informants.
The defendants were not required to be present in the preliminary hearing, however suspended Helsinki police chief Lasse Aapio attended the session. He told members of the media that he was contesting the charges against him.
Several police officers charged
In addition to Aapio, two prosecutors and several lawyers representing the defendants appeared in court. The court will try four high-ranking police officers, including current and former police chiefs. Besides Aapio, they are former police commissioner Mikko Paatero, NBI director Robin Lardot and former Helsinki police department chief Jukka Riikonen.
Aapio was suspended over allegations of official misconduct, which he and the other officers face for failing to intervene in the mishandling of criminal informants. The informants were handled by the team working for convicted ex-Helsinki drug squad head Jari Aarnio in 2012-13. Aapio was then the city’s deputy police chief.
The court heard that in addition to Aapio, another police officer who previously worked under Aarnio at the Helsinki police department had also been suspended over the case.
Other defendants in the case include one more police officer as well as the former head of the drugs unit and two of his team members. All of the accused have denied the charges against them.
Main trial begins in late August
The massive criminal trial began on Tuesday with a preliminary session where parties were expected to at least agree on a timetable for the case.
The main trial is expected to begin at the end of the month and will continue until the end of the year - or perhaps into next year. The court will hear testimony from dozens of witnesses and will review up to 8,000 pages of evidence from a preliminary inquiry that has lasted nearly five years.
Police began their investigation into the management of criminal informants when then-Interior Minister Päivi Räsänen filed a formal request for an investigation into informant management practices by the Helsinki police department.
In spite of the long-running investigation, prosecutors only formally charged NBI boss Lardot on Monday. Interior Minister Kai Mykkänen told Yle that the ministry consider what steps to take about Lardot’s position while he is on trial.
The charges allege that officers at the Helsinki police department did not register their informants as required by regulations between 2008 and 2013.