Following a report published by Finland’s leading national paper Helsingin Sanomat two weeks ago, Minister of the Interior Anne Holmlund (National Coalition Party) made a statement on September 10, 2007 that she wants to clarify the allegations that Thai massage parlours are also offering sex services.
The report published by Helsingin Sanomat suggested that sex services are freely available at all parlours offering Thai massage in Helsinki.
For two weeks in August, a team of journalists had visited 30 Thai massage businesses in Helsinki, and had been offered sex services in every one.
The article prompted a strong public response, and now the minister wants to have an account of what measures the police are to take if such illegal actions are perceived.
According to police commissioner Robin Lardot from the Ministry of the Interior, the Helsinki Police Department is in the process of launching a detailed investigation into the city’s Thai massage parlours, in cooperation with tax and immigration authorities if necessary.
“In practice, this investigation will cover more or less just the Helsinki region. However, I believe that any conclusions reached in Helsinki can be applied to the rest of the country, too”, noted Holmlund.
Thai-born Sunee Laine, who has been resident in finland since 1969, and who is a board member of the Finland-Thailand Society is pleased that the police have finally chosen to respond.
“Parlours offering Thai massage have been free to operate without any controls in Finland for a long time. The problem should have been tackled much sooner”, she said.
Sex services are legal but pimping is not
Lardot points out that Finnish Thai massage parlours have been raided before, but only a few minor penalties have been handed out for offences that were uncovered.
The selling of sex services on private premises becomes illegal in this country only when pimping is involved – that is, if a third party gets direct monetary benefits from the sale of sex services.
In the case that police find evidence of pimping, they will investigate whether or not the victims are possible subjects of human trafficking or extortion.
The police will also check whether the masseuses at the Thai parlours have valid work permits. Additional targets for police investigations include possible tax offences.
Further investigations needed
As recently as the end of August, when the HS article appeared, the Helsinki police stated that they placed a higher priority on what they consider to be the more serious procurement offences – particularly prostitution imported from Russia and Estonia, which is known to be linked with organised crime.
A police report on Thai massage parlours is due on Holmlund’s desk by the end of the current month.
”Supposing there is reason to believe that illegal activities occur in connection with the Thai massage business, the police naturally have an obligation to take action”, commented Anne Holmlund.