Finnish prosecutor drops charges against payday lender over failed Chinese mask deal

Former payday lender and businessman Onni Sarmaste. Image: Onni Sarmaste

Finnish prosecutors have dropped the charges of aggravated fraud against a former payday lender and businessman Onni Sarmaste and his business partner related to a 4.9 million-euro deal to supply face masks from China to be used by healthcare workers at the beginning of the pandemic, YLE reports.

The National Emergency Supply Agency (Nesa) paid in April 2020, Onni Sarmaste and his business partner 4.9 million euros for delivery of face masks from China but Finland’s VTT Technical Research Centre later subsequently determined that the masks did not meet the standards for hospital use. Users reported allergic reactions as well as a strange smell from the equipment. The number of masks was also found to be fewer than promised.

A pre-trial investigation was launched by the National Bureau of Investigation on the suspicion that the pair had deliberately misled NESA officials on matters that were decisive in making the purchase decision. However, the prosecutor has now, based on the preliminary investigation, decided not to prosecute because there was no probable reason to suspect Onni Sarmaste or his business partner of committing any crime.

NESA said it intends to review the ruling and assess possible further action, in a statement released following the prosecutor’s decision. The agency will continue to demand payment of the transaction amount and other ancillary costs from Onni Sarmaste, his company, and his business partner, NESA added. 

About Gregers Møller

Editor-in-Chief • ScandAsia Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

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