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Thursday’s papers: Crooked politician, one-week MP and pension wars begin

Thursday’s scan of leading dailies looks at a local government election candidate’s background of fraud and forgery, a reserve MP who stayed on the job for just one week, and a brewing inter-generational war over pensions.

Daily newspapers.
Image: E.D.Hawkins / Yle

One of the most-read morning stories in tabloid daily Iltalehti’s online edition is a hair-raising account of serial crimes committed by a National Coalition Party election official and municipal election candidate convicted of fraud and forgery.

In addition to previous convictions for similar offences, Mäntsälä politician Tommi Aura is also facing new charges in the Helsinki District Court, with prosecutors calling for a custodial prison sentence. In a series of rolling scams, Aura reportedly conned the city of Helsinki, Nordea Bank and the Tax Administration, among others.

In 2015, he allegedly tricked city officials into believing that he had fully paid up for a swanky Arabianranta residence by presenting a forged purchase receipt. When the city handed over the key to the property, Aura also offered tax officials another forged receipt as evidence that he had settled the asset transfer tax on the sale, prompting officials there to register him as the owner of shares in the home.

Aura’s next mark was Nordea Bank. He claimed that he’d won over 1.3 million euros in the lottery and had used the windfall to pay off 320,000 in debts owed to bailiffs as well as 320,000 on an outstanding mortgage. Not surprisingly, he presented a bogus account statement as proof of his winnings. Once bank officers had established that he had a clean credit record and no debt, they loaned Aura 45,000 euros and gave him a credit card with a 5,000-euro limit, using the Arabianranta property as security. Aura then went on to purchase a 40,000-euro car with the loan.

The serial swindler also reportedly cheated a string of small business owners during his criminal campaign. The Helsinki District Court will hand down a verdict at the end of February.

One-week MP swayed by money, power?

Another tabloid, Ilta-Sanomat also draws back the curtain on political goings-on, this time in the Parliament, where Centre Party reserve MP Paula Lehtomäki reportedly handed in her resignation after serving just one week as a lawmaker.

IS reports that Lehtomäki, a seasoned Centre politico and former Environment Minister, returned to the chamber at the beginning of February to fill the vacant seat left by former Economy Minister Olli Rehn, who is now a director on the board of the Bank of Finland.

Lehtomäki visited the Parliament to check her MP credentials and "basically resigned at the same time". According to IS, Lehtomäki’s express stint was seen only once before - during pre-independence Finland in 1910, when reserve MP Hjalmar Nordling served for just one day, although he resigned because of illness.

IS interviewed Tampere University political science professor Ilkka Ruostetsaari, who said that there was nothing essentially wrong with Lehtomäki’s choice. He speculated that money and power may have held the upper hand.

"The pay is much better and the cabinet Secretary of State has power," he remarked.

The government’s Secretary of State takes home 12,300 a month, while an MP earns 6,887 monthly plus tax-free expense reimbursements.

Citizen's initiative on pensions inflames generation gap

Leading circulation daily Helsingin Sanomat also leads with politics as it previews Thursday’s parliamentary session, where MPs will begin debate on a citizen’s initiative to tie pensions to annual increases in salaries. The initiative got the support of 84,000 people, automatically triggering consideration by lawmakers.

On the face of it, the initiative seems reasonable, but HS reports that the proposed measure has riven the ranks of most parties along the lines of age. The divide was evident at last weekend’s Social Democrats’ party convention, where young members used their turns at the podium to complain that the measure – sponsored by senior SDP heavyweights – poses a threat to the younger generation because pensions indexed to wage increases could eventually bankrupt pension funds, leaving little or nothing for future generations of retirees.

Annual increases in pensions are currently tied to an index that is 80-percent weighted in favour of inflation and 20-percent on wage changes. Retirees believe that the current system is making them poorer in relation to wage earners.

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