Two Finns Party MPs, including the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, concealed their links to a tech company that received funding from China.
The reporting by Suomen Kuvalehti on Thursday afternoon outlines how Mika Niikko, Chairman of Parliament’s powerful Foreign Affairs Committee, has been active in promoting Finnish-Chinese business cooperation.
At the same time, says SK, Niikko and his business partner Ville Vähämäki – who is also a Finns Party MP – became the founding shareholders in a Vantaa-based company Realmax Oy which received €1 million from its Chinese state-funded parent company Realmax Technology Group.
Mr Niikko says their involvement in the company lasted only a short time, but SK reports the two MPs have not disclosed their stake in a business with links to a Chinese state-owned entity.
Mika Niikko’s China connections
During the last parliamentary term they say he made several visits to China paid for by Chinese companies; hosted Chinese delegations in Parliament; founded Realmax Oy and was the vice-chairman of the China Parliamentary Friendship Group.
SK outlines details of events Niikko hosted at Parliament in June and December 2017 where Finnish companies and the Chinese Realmax Group were on the guest list. The June event came shortly after China’s State Development and Investment Corporation SDIC had invested tens of millions in Realmax Group. The December event – billed as a ‘China Day’ in Parliament – included a trip for Chinese delegates to a smoke sauna in Vantaa, and a few days later Miltton communications agency organised a briefing for journalists where Realmax announced a multi-million investment in product development in Vantaa.
Realmax Oy in Vantaa was set up on 27th June 2017 by the two Finns Party MPs and a Chinese national who had previously worked at Nokia – and who SK says had been known to Niikko since before 2015’s parliamentary elections.
After the election an investigation by journalists at Yle’s MOT programme revealed that Niikko had been given a loan for nearly €5000 by the same Chinese acquaintance, which he didn’t declare to authorities. The man was working for a Chinese technology association with close links to the Central Committee of the Communist Party in China, according to Suomen Kuvalehti.
Foreign Affairs Committee role
Mika Niikko has been a Member of Parliament since 2011, but only became Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in summer 2019.
Suomen Kuvalehti’s story says that the Finnish Security Police SUPO began paying attention to Niikko’s activities, as concerns were raised in general about China’s efforts to increase its influence by engaging with politicians through questionable methods.
In February 2019, SUPO warned Finnish companies about the risks of cooperating with Chinese companies; while in June 2019 the Finnish Institute of International Affairs wrote in a briefing paper that Chinese agents had approached Finnish foreign policy experts with fake profiles. Meanwhile SUPO reported in December 2019 that Finland is the target of large-scale intelligence-gathering activities by Russia and China in particular.
As Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Niikko deals with major foreign and security policy issues, foreign trade policy, and EU security policy issues, among other sensitive topics.
Reaction to the Suomen Kuvalehti story
Reaction to the Suomen Kuvalehti story from the politician has been to deny any impropriety, noting that he and Ville Vähämäki gave up their shares in Vantaa-base Realmax Oy by September 2017.
Niikko says there was nothing special about his ownership stake in Realmax Oy at the time, nor about his China activities.
“After all, it is up to our MPs to promote exports” he told SK reporters.
The Finns Party leader Jussi Halla-aho tells Suomen Kuvalehti that some essential information is missing from their investigation, and that this sort of story is “agenda journalism” – a common response from Finns Party politicians when they don’t like something written about them in the Finnish media.