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Supreme Court rules WinCapita accomplices must forfeit ill-gotten gains

Finland's Supreme Court ruled Friday that five investors involved in the country's largest ever financial swindle must forfeit the proceeds earned from the scheme to the state. The WinCapita investment club has been condemned as a Ponzi scheme in many court proceedings.

Wincapita-oikeudenkäynti Etelä-Karjalan käräjäoikeudessa Lappeenrannassa.
The southern Karelia District Court presided over one of the many cases arising out of the WinCapita investment scam. Image: Yle

The courts found that the original fraudsters behind the WinCapita investment club as well as later investors skimmed their profits off the contributions of new recruits to the scheme.

The Supreme Court ruled that according to the law, financial gain from criminal activity must be forfeited not only by criminal offenders, but also by those who have benefited from criminal activity.

The Court accordingly upheld a forfeiture sentence handed down by the Vantaa District Court in August, which found that although the defendants had no criminal intent and were cleared of fraud charges, they must still hand over their ill-gotten gains to the state.

The Supreme Court noted that the investment club had no sources of income apart from member contributions. Additionally the scheme's income potential depended on participation fees and other payments made by members who later joined the club.

Court: Club's assets did not originate from legal activities

The Court said that the club's assets could not in any way be categorised as funds originating from legal activities.  Moreover the fact that the investors were unaware of any criminal activity was irrelevant.

The court's precedent ruling relates to five investors, however hundreds of similar cases are being prosecuted and Friday's decision is expected to weigh in those outcomes.

In another case the district court in northern Karelia sentenced other investors to forfeit their profits to the state. However an appeal court in eastern Finland ruled that investors did not have to hand over the money they earned in the pyramid scheme.

The WinCapita investment club raised more than 100 million euros from over 10,000 investors, making it the largest ever financial swindle in Finnish history.

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