Katri Kulmuni resigned Friday as Minister of Finance after two days under fire for the possible misuse of public funds in relation to the coaching services recived from the company Tekir Oy, which in the past was a donor of her party (Center Party or Keskusta, in Finnish).
A few hours earlier, the police had confirmed that they have launched an investigation into the case.
"I have to take political responsibility for the matter even though I didn’t know about all the procurements," she said in a press conference. But Kulmuni will not abandon politics, she will continue as chairperson of the Center Party, which is the main ally of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in Finland's five-party coalition government.
Kulmuni's resignation was preceded by the Tekir Oy scandal. The company was training her on how to succeed in her interviews, TV debates and other public appearances. Tekir Oy billed around 50,000 euros to the two ministries that Kulmuni has headed since June 2019, as reported Suomen Kuvalehti.
One of the minister's coaches was the journalist Harri Saukkomaa, who charged 700 euros an hour (plus VAT) for his services. Other trainers coached her for half that price, 350 euros an hour.
Katri Kulmuni is also the leader of the Center Party. However, those invoices were not paid by her party, but with taxpayers' money. Furthermore, the newspaper Iltalehti published that in the past Tekir Oy also donated money for Keskusta's election campaign.
Social Democrat Party's newspaper Demokraatti reported Friday that police are looking into the case after receiving two requests to investigate.
And the Chancellor of Justice (the government official who supervises authorities' compliance with the law) has also received at least four complaints about Kulmuni's conduct in relation to these facts.
Inspector Teemu Jokinen, from the Helsinki Police Department, confirmed that the police are investigating the procurement regulations and whether there is reason to suspect that they have been violated.
Money will be returned
Kulmuni attempted to end the case on Wednesday night, by saying at the end of a government meeting that she was also "surprised" by the large sum paid for her training. She also promised to return the money out of her own pocket.
Previously, the Ministry published a statement saying that “there are no legal or administrative ambiguities in the agreements. Acquisitions have been made in accordance with the procurement regulations.” On her Twitter account, Kulmuni also insisted that the law was not violated.
On Friday, while newspapers questioned whether the amounts paid may clash with legislation, citizen complaints multiplied on social media. Kulmuni's case became trending topic in a country where the misuse of taxpayer's money is severely punished.
Those who complained were not satisfied with the mere return of the money. They also demanded an investigation and, if necessary, an assumption of responsibility.
Meanwhile, the rest of leaders of the five-party coalition government remained silent on the facts of the case.
Prime Minister Sanna Marin (SDP), usually quite active in Twitter, has not yet expressed her opinion on these facts. On Friday, only after the resignation was known, she wrote a tweet in which she expressed her "appreciation" for Kulmuni and for her "cooperation" in the Government.
“I support Katri Kulmuni in her decision, which must certainly have been difficult. I respect her as a person and thank her for her cooperation. Cooperation with the Centre Party will continue in the Government,” says Prime Minister Marin.
The Government Communications Department said in a press release that "Prime Minister Marin will not comment further on the matter for the time being."
Similar messages were also wriiten by the Minister of Education and leader of the Left Alliance Li Andersson, and by the Minister of the Interior and leader of the Green Party Maria Ohisalo.
Halla-aho mentions corruption
Before the resignation, the most belligerent against Kulmuni was the leader of the True Finns (Perussuomalaiset), Jussi Halla-aho. He posted a very tough message on Twitter in which he even raises doubts about the alleged cleanliness of politics in Finland.
Halla-Aho said "it doesn't look very good" if Kulmuni channeled 50,000 euros from her ministries to a consultant linked to her party.
He also wondered if "is Finland the least corrupted country in the world (as some international rankings sat) just because do not consider this to be corruption?"