Huge weekend raid nets three suspects in crime probe with possible Russian links

Prime Minister & President have both been briefed on events, as 100 officers from the National Bureau of Investigation, Border Guard and local police investigate.

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File picture of Turku Archipelago region / Credit: iStock

Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation says it’s detained three people during a weekend raid in south west Finland and the Turku archipelago.

Authorities imposed a 24 hour no-fly zone over the region while the raid and investigation were taking place. It has now been lifted.

More than 100 officers were involved in Saturday’s raid, including personnel from the Border Guard, National Bureau of Investigation and the local police, amid speculation of how the company at the centre of the raid Airiston Helmi might be connected to Russia, and why it’s been buying up land and property close to areas of strategic importance to Finland’s national security.

“The searches are part of a criminal investigation carried out with the Finnish Tax Administration into suspected aggravated money laundering and aggravated tax fraud among other offences” says NBI in a statement.

Law enforcement authorities suspect that the business, which is registered in Finland but owned in another EU country, has laundered several million euros. The company also allegedly used illegal workers.

Media speculation about the raids

Today, the Finnish Sunday papers covered the details of the raid extensively, and focuses on the intrigue, and unanswered questions about what has been happening in south west Finland.

Iltalehti newspaper reports that Airiston Helmi has been buying land in the archipelago over the last few years and has “strong links to Russia”.

Meanwhile Helsingin Sanomat newspaper quotes Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) saying that both he and President Sauli Niinistö had been briefed on the raid. The newspaper also reports that the Russian-linked company had been on the radar of Finnish intelligence and security authorities for some time before the raid was carried out.

The local newspaper Turun Sanomat reports today that officers confiscated documents, phones and memory sticks from the company’s offices, and that defence force sources say the company had been buying land in areas of strategic importance.

Finland’s Ministry of Defence is working on proposals that would place restrictions on who can buy land close to military installations or strategic sites. In practice, it means that any Russian nationals, or companies with connections to Russia, would need specific permission to buy such properties. A bill could come before parliament before the next general election scheduled for spring 2019.