Prosecutors have filed charges against renowned Finnish theatre figure and writer Veijo Baltzar for a slew of sexual and aggravated human trafficking offences allegedly committed between 1 August, 2004 and 19 November, 2019.
A preliminary investigation by Helsinki police into the crimes alleged that Baltzar’s victims were seven young women, some of whom were minors at the time the suspected crimes were committed.
In addition, two women are accused of aiding and abetting the human trafficking offences.
The crimes are suspected to have taken place over a period of 15 years in the cities of Helsinki, Espoo, Raseborg (Raasepori), Suonenjoki and Kuopio, where Baltzar is accused of recruiting girls and young women for theatre work through his cultural association.
Police said he first enticed women to spend time at his residence and eventually live there. He allegedly had several residences in the Helsinki region, as well as a large dwelling in Ekenäs (Tammisaari) and another residence in Kuopio.
Police added that Baltzar lived in these residences with the two women who are suspected of being his accomplices in human trafficking.
"On the basis of the preliminary investigation police believe that by preying on the [alleged] victims’ insecure positions and their dependency -- and also by pressuring some of them -- the suspect recruited them into his community and put them up in different homes to make them targets of sexual abuse and/or forced labour in conditions that violated human dignity," lead investigator detective chief inspector Saara Asmundela said in a September press release.
Accused remanded in custody for nearly a year
The police’s preliminary investigation further found that there was a climate of fear within the community, as the alleged victims had to act in accordance with rules and regulations issued by Baltzar while living with him.
The rules concerned appearance and eating habits, among other things, and police believe the victims were separated from their families and friends and were not allowed to contact outsiders.
The Helsinki District Court remanded Baltzar into pre-trial custody on 21 November last year as prosecutors considered the charges against him. The deadline for pressing charges was extended three times, and Baltzar was released earlier this month pending the prosecutor’s decision.
Baltzar's lawyer Jussi Sarvikivi said in September after the completion of the police preliminary investigation that his client denies committed any crimes.
The trial will begin in the Helsinki District Court on 9 December.