Helsinki court jails anti-drug chief Jari Aarnio for drug smuggling

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Helsinki District Court on Thursday sentenced Jari Aarnio, once head of the city's anti-drugs taskforce, to ten years in prison for smuggling hashish and related crimes.

A courtroom at the Helsinki District Court, from file.
Image: MakeF.

Aarnio, who maintains his innocence, was among thirteen defendants prosecuted over the import and distribution of Dutch hashish totaling about 800 kg in 2011–12. Ordered into immediate custody, Aarnio was convicted of all 22 charges he faced. Five were of aggravated drug offence, with other offences including official misconduct, threatening a suspect, and aggravated evidence tampering.

In addition to prison time, Aarnio was ordered to hand over more than 1.3m and a Porvoo property. Colleague Mikael Runeberg was convicted of nine corruption offences and also jailed, receiving a three-and-a-half year sentence. The court found Runeberg attempted to set up an innocent man in the case. Aarnio tried to hide the identities of co-conspirators and prevent investigations proceeding.

Aarnio, 59, worked his way up to his position in the Helsinki Police Department over a 30-year anti-drugs career. It is his second jail term for corruption. He was found guilty of aggravated fraud in an unrelated case from 2013 connected to his interest in a firm selling surveillance technology to the police. Also convicted of aggravated abuse of public office and aggravated acceptance of bribes, his sentence in that case was set at three years by the Helsinki Court of Appeal.

Aarnio says he intends to appeal and had argued he acted lawfully. Riitta Leppiniemi, defending, said the court may have failed to understand his department's work. The court ruled the convicts offended "with premeditation while unscrupulously abusing the position of a police officer." It also said they "took advantage of the judicial system and forcible police measures" and "contributed to reducing public trust in police operations and were therefore damaging for the entire society," in a press release.

The prosecution sought a thirteen-year term. Aarnio was taken from court to Vantaa Prison.

Transparency International ranks Finnish officials the second-least corrupt worldwide. Only Denmark is ranked higher.