New rules on booze, as Air Force leaders convicted in training scandal

The allegations against a senior officer have become a major embarrassment for the Finnish Defence Forces.

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File photo of judge holding documents / Credit: iStock

The Finnish Air Force has issued new rules banning alcohol from training exercises, as two senior Finnish officers are convicted for their roles in a training scandal that became a major embarrassment for the country’s defence forces.

On Tuesday morning the Helsinki Appeal Court ruled the former commander of the Karelian Air Command Markus Päiviö is guilty of misuse of managerial positions, service offenses and defamation.

Päiviö has been sentenced to a 60-day fine, equaling €3000.

The charges were related to incidents during a voluntary training exercise held at Lemmenjoki in Lapland in September 2017 which Päiviö had denied.

The court found he insulted other Air Force officers with homophobic slurs; and also insulted the mayor of the local town who says alcohol played a part in the incident.

Former Air Force commander convicted as well 

Another senior officer Sampo Eskelinen was also found guilty and fined for delaying an initial investigation into the allegations against Päiviö.

The court found that Eskelinen knew about the incident in September or October 2017 but didn’t start an official investigation until several months later. The judge ruled this delay was deliberate, and fined the former Finnish Air Force commander €1700.

The case was considered serious enough that even President Sauli Niinistö was briefed by senior commanders on the accusations and the charges.

New rules on alcohol for training courses

Earlier this year, and in response to the court case involving the two officers, the Finnish Defence Forces revised its rules for voluntary training courses.

In future, these types of courses can only be held in premises owned by the Defence Forces.

Alcohol is banned, and training course organisers would have to get special permission if they wanted to serve any – for special occasions.

There’s also new guidelines about how to organise and plan voluntary training courses, with instructions on good administration and behaviour.