Two Finns suspected in scandal regarding imported face masks from China

The Finnish authorities is on step closer to a trial in the face mask scandal

The Finnish National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has finished its preliminary investigation into the national stockpile agency and their two failed medical face mask procurements. The two orders made by NESA for a delivery of face masks from China to be used by healthcare workers cost the Finnish state 10 million euros however both orders were unsuccessful. Now the NBI are suspecting two people of aggravated fraud in relation to the case.

The mask scandal that started in April last year has seen a lot of spotlight in Finnish media. It started when the National Emergency Supply Agency (Nesa) made two orders on medical masks at two somewhat offbeat suppliers.

One of these, was the previous instant-loan money lender, Onni Sarmaste, a business that itself wend bankrupted. The entrepreneur, who was in debt and had varied criminal record behind him, got roughly five million euros for landing a deal to supply the Finnish state with face masks from a Chinese manufacturer. It was however revealed that the masks did not live up to hospitals standards and was therefore taken out of use immediately. The masks also caused allergic reactions in some cases.

Onni Sarmaste

The other part of the questionable double deal was made with the former reality tv personality, Tiina Jylhä, who was also supposed to supply the state with face masks through her firm but as she was late on the delivery of the masks, the state where successful with getting a court approval for withdrawing from that contract.

The state could in this case retrieve the prepaid money relatively easy since Jylhä’s bank had frozen the money transfer because the figure made them suspicious about money laundering when it was transferred to such a small company as Jylhä’s. Her firm was in addition accused of lying to tax authorities.

Tiina Jylhä – Facebook

The consequences

The case meant that Tomi Lounema,  who was managing director of Nesa at that the time, had to resign from his position. Tomi Lounema told the press that it was due to the acute shortage of personal protective equipment worldwide, his agency had to move quickly and had been unable to check the backgrounds of the suppliers before signing the contracts and making the payments.

However, It was revealed that a medical equipment firm had offered to help Finland source hundreds of thousands of N95 masks, but was rejected by the country’s agency in charge of emergency stockpiles.

Since then, the question has been hanging in the air on who was responsible for the fiasco procurement. The NBI launched a preliminary investigation on the matter in April 2020 and on Tuesday it concluded it handing over their findings to the prosecutors. They told that they suspected two people for aggravated fraud, but they didn’t identify the individuals. Onni Sarmaste has however told that there where indications suggesting he was a suspect in the case.

The NBI has also announced that they made a separate investigation into the purchase, where they had suspected three Nesa employees of official abuse of trust. This investigation has also been handed over to prosecutors.

About Lasse Sandholdt

ScandAsia Journalist • Scandinavian Publishing Co., Ltd. • Bangkok, Thailand

View all posts by Lasse Sandholdt

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