Friday. 23.02.2024

Trash-masks scandal: the 5 million paid by Finland ended up in a bank account in Belgium

Behind the scandal of the cargo of useless masks bought from China there is a bizarre story that involves a beauty clinic entrepreneur, a fast-loan businessman, and even the Hell's Angels. Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen is demanding an explanation on the case.

Mask-scandal

Finland lives these days involved in a great scandal over the millionaire purchase in China of a shipment of medical equipment for hospitals that ended up being useless.

On Thursday, new information emerged related to this bizarre case, which also involves a Finnish beauty clinic businesswoman and a fast-loan businessman on whose bank account in Belgium might have ended the five million euros paid by the Finnish Center for Security of Supply. To round off the circus, the Hells Angels also appear in the story.

The problem started on Wednesday when it was discovered that the cargo of 2 million protective surgical masks brought to Helsinki by plane from China on 4-5 April did not meet the quality requirements of hospitals to fight against coronavirus (koronavirus, in Finnish). In the plane came also thousands of mechanical ventilators.

On Thursday more strange things involving this case were known, following information first published by the newspaper Suomen Kuvalehti.

Tiina Jylhä. Photo: Facebook

According to data collected from the Finnish press, the shipment was ordered by the Finnish Center for Security o Supply (Huoltovarmuuskeskus, in Finnish) to the company 'Look Medical Care', owned by the Finnish entrepreneur Tiina Jylhä. On its website, the company based in Estonia offers sales of medical equipment to other companies.

However, Jylhä assures that during the operation another businessman, Onni Sarmaste, intervened as a 'consultant'. According to Helsingin Sanomat, Sarmaste is involved in businesses in Ukraine, Estonia and Britain. In Finland he has been running fast-loan businesses and he has bad debt records. And he managed to convince the government agency to send the money to his account.

5 million euros

How much money? Tomi Lounema, CEO of the Center for Security of Supply refused to comment on the matter to the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat, which says the amount paid for the useless gear was 5 million euros.

The sequence of events is not at all clear and the parties accuse each other of the mess. Kari Uoti, the legal representative of businesswoman Tiina Jylhä says that she actually has a contract with the Center for Security of Supply but refuses to show the documents at this stage.

"If someone disputes the existence of the agreement, then I will deliver them," he told newspaper Ilta Sanomat.

According to Uoti's story, the deal progressed well until Sarmaste joined them claiming that he had good connections with the Center for Security of Supply. Uoti says the advance payment, that should had been done to Jylhä's account, went to another account.  Suomen Kuvalehti says the money ended up in a bank account in Belgium.

Onni Sarmaste. Photo: Facebook

Hells Angels to collect money?

For his part, Sarmaste tells a completely different story. According to Helsingin Sanomat, he contacted the Center for Security of Supply after knowing they had opened their warehouses because they were in need for materials and told them he had contacts in China.

Then he contacted Tiina Jylhä's beauty clinic, without knowing who was behind. He says they only spoke in the phone and he discovered they did not have the materials. For that reason, he decided to procure the goods by himself elsewhere through China. He refused to provide details on the origin of the products. 

Tiina Jylhä was left without the possibility of carrying out the operation and, therefore, without the money

Sarmaste also claims that Jylhä and her husband Tape Valkonen sent the motorcycle gang Hells Angels to collect the money of the purchase. According to the story he told to Helsingin Sanomat, recently there was an attempt to break into his apartment and a stone was also thrown through the window. He has filed a crime report for that.

Jylhä denies all those accusations.

“I can’t even comment on that claim. I have no acquaintances out there. The only person we have sent after him is (the lawyer) Kari Uoti. ”

Finnish Government demands explanation

Be that as it may, the reality is that Finnish healthcare professionals who are struggling to save lives these days have temporarily been left without protective gear. And the government has paid 5 million for garbage.

On Thursday, Finnish Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen demanded an explanation on Twitter from the CEO of the Center for Security of Supply.

"The Security Center for Security of Supply is an institution under the administration of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. Last night and this morning, there have been ambiguities in public regarding the trade in protection equipment. Of these irregularities, I immediately asked for an early morning report," she said.

*Photos included in this text: Tiina Jylhä and Onni Sarmaste. Source: Facebook.

Trash-masks scandal: the 5 million paid by Finland ended up in a bank account in Belgium