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Thursday's papers: Storm damage, presidential message, unpaid taxes, meteor showers

Finland's press covers reactions to the President's choice of words, likely evidence of tax fraud in the Airiston Helmi case, and the return of the Quadrantids.

Perseidien tähdenlentoja kuvattiin viime yönä Makedoniassa.
Meteor showers over Macedonia last autumn. Image: Georgi Licovski / EPA

Tabloid Ilta-Sanomat provides a status report on damage from the storm that pummelled the west coast and other areas with high winds on Tuesday and Wednesday, saying that some 12,000 inhabitants are still without power near the cities of Ylöjärvi, Vaasa and Korsnäs.

The record-breaking Aapeli storm also halted railway traffic in the area, and IS says trains throughout the country are still running 20 to 50 minutes late as a result. The weather is predicted to calm down considerably today, and so repair workers estimate that things should soon be back to normal.

Reactions to President's speech

Helsingin Sanomat carries a story on responses to President Sauli Niinistö's New Year's Day speech, in which he spoke of migration in Finland. He said those residing here have to be given the opportunity to be a part of Finnish society, but "in turn, there is the right to require a willingness to adjust to our society". He then asked that migrant communities "bear responsibility by guiding their own".

The paper speaks with Hussein al-Taee, a Finnish citizen born in Iraq who now works at the Crisis Management Initiative to promote asylum seeker integration. He tells HS that migrant communities already do a lot "to build bridges between their own culture and the Finnish culture". He says the problem is that programmes such as the Finn Church Aid's Reach Out project to prevent radicalisation and extremism are acutely underfunded.

He also points out that immigrants in Finland do not make up one cohesive block, as they contain a wide variety of people with divergent ways of thinking.

Imam Abbas Bahmanpour from the Helsinki district of Mellumäki agrees with the President.

"If you come here as an asylum seeker, seeking peace, than it is incompatible that you would yourself stir up unrest. On the other hand, it isn't right for racists to label entire communities. Criminals can be found everywhere," he says.

He says mosques are often the first contact with society for many asylum seekers after they leave reception centres, and talks of his own mosque's active youth organisation that helps young newcomers find friends. But he too says a lack of resources also means that the group is run on a volunteer basis, and services are not as comprehensive as they could be.

Ujuni Ahmed, head of the civil organisation Fenix Helsinki, is most critical of Niinistö's comments. She says the President isn't the right person to speak of "guiding their own", because he should be promoting the idea of a united society.

"Saying something like that just feeds the idea that 'your people are doing something bad to us', in my opinion. […] 'Keep your own people in line'. This kind of division is dangerous," she says.

Proof of tax evasion in Airiston Helmi case

Kainuun Sanomat features more news on the Airiston Helmi money laundering case, writing that the National Bureau of Investigation says it has found evidence of what it suspects is over one million euros in tax evasion.

"Right now we are talking about tax evasion of about 780,000 euros", NBI inspector Antti Perälä tells the paper. "We suspect that false information has been submitted and things were hidden from the tax authorities."

A Russian-born man is still being held on suspicion of aggravated money laundering, aggravated tax evasion and aggravated bookkeeping offences, each of which poses a maximum prison sentence of up to six years. The sting of the Airiston Helmi real estate firm last September near Turku recovered close to 3.5 million euros in cash and up to 200 terabytes of data. Police and the Finnish Security Intelligence Service Supo are now examining the retrieved material.

Meteor showers over Finland tonight

And the tabloid Iltalehti contains a story on night sky activity this Thursday night, as the annual Quadrantid meteor shower will reach its peak at around four in the morning overnight.

One of the most reliable meteor showers each year, the Quadrantids appear to fan out from a spot on the sky midway between the Big Dipper's handle and the four stars marking the head of Draco, the dragon.

IL's astronomy expert predicts that at least 10 meteor showers will be visible in the space of one hour – if the weather cooperates and there are clear skies.

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