Sunday. 19.05.2024
Trash-masks scandal

Security Supply Center CEO resigns after face mask fiasco

Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen, under whose responsibility operated the agency that committed the millionaire purchase of useless material for hospitals, refuses to resign.

Minister of Employment Tuula Haatainen and Tomi Lounema. Photos: Lauri Heikkinen/Vnk.

On Friday Tomi Lounema, the CEO of the Center for Security of Supply (Huoltovarmuuskeskus, in Finnish), resigned after he admitted spending millions of euros on protective equipment that was not up to scratch for hospital use.

Earlier on Friday Prime Minister Sanna Marin said she had lost confidence in Lounema's management of the agency.

Tuula Haatainen, Minister of Employment, announced the resignation at a press conference, stating that the agency’s credibility had been damaged. Lounema’s interim replacement will be Janne Känkänen, Director for EU and International Affairs at the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. 

Lounema had been heavily criticized after the first shipment of the protective masks purchased in China failed tests and were therefore not sent to hospitals.

Suomen Kuvalehti then reported that Lounema had bought those masks from Onni Sarmaste -a fast loan businessman with bad debt records- and that he was in dispute with Tiina Jylhä  -a tabloid celebrity who owns a beauty and plastic surgery clinic in Estonia- over the payments.

Minister Haatainen refused to resign

Minister Haatainen said that she had not heard of the deals until she read about them in the media. And she made clear that she does not intend to resign in the press conference in which Lounema's removal was announced. The opposition parties had demanded her resignation.

"I have a responsibility to ensure the operation of the Security of Supply Center. I required a comprehensive analysis as a basis for further decisions," Haatainen said.

Lounema subsequently admitted that he had agreed contracts with both Sarmaste and Jylhä, each worth five million euros, but the initial payment to Jylhä’s company had been frozen by her bank.

Security Supply Center CEO resigns after face mask fiasco