Investigators at the Western Uusimaa Police Department believe foul play may be involved in the disappearance of truck-loads of computers in Espoo.
The City of Espoo has misplaced over 9,600 desktops, laptops, printers and screens leased from a service provider. The pre-trial investigation was launched after a criminal report filed by the city in early December and encompasses its dealings with service providers over the past couple of years.
A few suspects have been singled out for charges of aggravated embezzlement.
The investigators underline, however, that the charges may yet be revisited as the investigation is far from complete. For example, the possibility that some of the missing devices have been sold on to third parties has yet to be ruled out.
“The case has several lines of investigation. I can't say at this point how the investigation will develop along the way. The case under investigation is extremely broad,” reminds Minna Immonen, the officer in charge of the investigation.
An essential element of embezzlement is that the offender appropriates assets temporarily in their possession for their own benefit. The offence may be deemed aggravated depending on the value of the assets or other movable property.
Espoo has estimated that the missing devices are worth several millions of euros. In addition, the city may be liable for late payment fees due to its inability to return the devices in accordance with its agreement with the service provider in question.
One of the contract partners of Espoo is Fujitsu, which was responsible not only for the delivery and removal of ordered devices but also for the maintenance of the device registry of the city and the submission of reports to Danske Finance. The financial services provider declined to comment on the matter on Tuesday, citing banking secrecy rules.
Timo Kuismin, the director of legal matters at Espoo, reveals that it remains unclear which contract party will be responsible for the losses arising from the missing devices. “We do not yet know at what stage the devices went missing. It's likely that the parties will have rather different views about who is responsible for them. This will be subject to some dispute,” he predicts.
Investigators assigned to the case have refused to disclose whether the suspects include people employed by the city or the service provider.
Vast amounts of data have disappeared along with the devices. The investigators emphasise that it remains premature to tell whether or not the data stored in the devices has been used for criminal purposes.
Immonen also declines to reveal where the devices were used prior to their disappearance. “I'd prefer not to comment on that either. We must be allowed to look into the matter without too much speculation circulating in the media,” she states.
How long is the investigation expected to take?
“I can't give you an exact time frame. It'll take months,” Immonen replies. “We're conducting an independent pre-trial investigation and we'll see what it's good for.”
A couple of people have been interviewed in relation to the case.
Joonas Laitinen, Kaisu Moilanen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
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Photo: Vesa Oja / HS