Terttu Utriainen, a professor of criminal law at the University of Lapland, is of the opinion that the operations of the dating website Panosuhde.com are verging on illegality if its employees have indeed deceived men by impersonating young women looking for company.
“If the goal of the operations is to obtain financial gains and to deceive someone, I believe it constitutes fraud,” Utriainen says.
Sampo Syreeni, a 35-year-old man from Helsinki, revealed in Sunday's edition of Helsingin Sanomat that he impersonated young women for a living on the pay-per-chat website. The men he chatted with were under the impression that they were paying roughly two euros per message to chat with a young woman, while in fact they were chatting with Syreeni.
Some of the men, Syreeni said, continue to send messages for months and thus spend considerable sums of money.
Syreeni also revealed that at least five other people have done the same kind of work and that their employer paid their wages off-the-books.
“Lying is not a crime as such. Even if it causes distress to someone, it's not directly a crime. The dancefloors are full of blowhards,” Utriainen points out. “But if the company is making money and the betrayed party is losing money due to the lies, it may constitute fraud.”
Katri Väänänen, a legal adviser at the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority, reminds that the victims of such scams are generally reluctant to report the cases to authorities. “Consumers may be ashamed and don't report the matter even if wrongdoings have taken place.”
Also the police taken an interest in the case but have yet to launch a pre-trial investigation. Ismo Siltamäki, a detective inspector at the Helsinki Police Department, says that the case “raises interest regardless of whether a criminal complaint has been filed or not”.
“The economic aspect of the operations is particularly interesting, the possible shadow economy,” he explains.
He also estimates that the dubious activities may fulfil the elements of petty fraud.
Finnish Media Adult Group, the operator of Panosuhde.com, did not respond to requests for comment by Helsingin Sanomat on Monday.
Lasse Kerkelä – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
© HELSINGIN SANOMAT