Prime Minister Juha Sipilä (Centre) has found himself under intense media scrutiny for leading a business delegation for an export promotion trip to India in February, 2016.
Iltalehti on Tuesday reported that the business delegation included Chempolis, an Oulu-based developer of bio-refining technology, which announced on the last day of the export promotion trip that it has been awarded a contract to build a 110 million euro bio-refinery in Assam, North-east India.
Roughly five per cent of shares in Chempolis are owned by Fortel Invest, an investment firm owned by the children of Sipilä.
Sipilä, who sold his stake in Fortel Invest during the course of 2013, has revealed that he was aware that a company in which his children have a minority stake was part of the business delegation to India.
“I was aware that Chempolis was participating in the trip and I was thinking about what to do,” he said in an interview with Helsingin Sanomat on Tuesday. “The conclusion I reached was that there were no grounds to scratch out the company.”
“I certainly didn't take part in any negotiations. They made their deal independently,” he added.
Esa Rousu, the chief executive officer of Chempolis, reminded in an interview with Talouselämä that the letter of intent for building the bio-refinery was signed already in 2014 – before Sipilä assumed his responsibilities as Prime Minister.
“The President of India was visiting Finland at the time and President Sauli Niinistö was there approve the signature,” he said to the commerce-oriented newspaper.
Both Sipilä and Finpro have also reminded that the businesses participating in export promotion trips are selected by neither ministers nor ministries.
“All Finnish businesses seeking to internationalise can participate in the trips. Finpro, the participating ministries or ministers do not select the businesses participating in export promotion trips,” reads a press release from Finpro.
YLE on Tuesday also reported that Fortum, a state-owned energy company, acquired a 34 per cent stake in Chempolis in October.
Erkka Railo, a special researcher at the Centre for Parliamentary Studies of the University of Turku, believes the role of the state-owned company as an investor and majority owner in Chempolis is particularly curious.
“This is beginning to look quite odd. At the very least you can say that the premier should not put himself in such a conflict of interest,” he tweeted.
“It's probable that the premier hasn't given preferential treatment to his relatives, but the premier shouldn't put himself in a situation that gives grounds for such suspicions in the first place,” continued Railo.
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Martti Kainulainen – Lehtikuva
Source: Uusi Suomi