The City of Espoo has been billed for devices the whereabouts of which remain a mystery.The computers, screens and printers missing from the City of Espoo are being hunted down one data row at a time.

The city has provided tens of thousands of rows of device register data to law-enforcement authorities in an attempt to determine why almost 10,000 desktops, laptops and accessories are unaccounted for.

The costs incurred by the city may rise to millions of euros unless the mystery is solved as the city will be liable to compensate its contract partner, Fujitsu, for the redemption value of the devices after the leasing agreement expires. In addition, the city may be held liable for late payment penalties due to its failure to return the devices in accordance with the agreement.

“The case is exceptional and the volume of material we've had to study has taken all of us by surprise,” comments Minna Immonen, the officer in charge of the pre-trial investigation at the Western Uusimaa Police Department.

More on the topic:

- Few suspected of aggravated embezzlement over missing computers (4 June 2015)

- Truck-loads of computers, screens, printers missing in Espoo (2 June 2015)

The pre-trial investigation was opened after the City of Espoo asked law enforcement authorities to look into discrepancies related to its computers in December. The computers and accessories had been leased to the city as so-called life-cycle services by Fujitsu.

“The number of unaccounted devices is high, and their monetary value is considerable. The value will ultimately depend on how many devices remain missing after the investigation,” says Jukka Pitkänen, the head of IT services at Espoo.

The city looked into the discrepancies in the device register maintained by Fujitsu and the billing register maintained by Danske Finance by itself before filing the formal request for inquiry. Police are currently investigating the mystery in collaboration with the city, Fujitsu and Danske Finance and expect the investigation to drag for several months.

“Aggravated embezzlement is suspected. The criminal offence may yet change and other suspicions may emerge,” says Immonen.

The investigators have yet to rule out the possibility of theft, although no evidence to suggest the computers and devices were stolen has yet been found. Aggravated embezzlement may also be interpreted to suggest the discrepancies are related to register manipulation.

“The devices weren't found in an inventory carried out by the city but also haven't been removed from the billing register by the provider of the life-cycle services. The underlying question is why devices removed from use haven't been deleted from the files,” Pitkänen summarises.

The Western Uusimaa Police Department will consult IT experts with the capacity to process vast data sets during the pre-trial investigation.

Immonen also says the willingness of people who have dealt with the computers to contact the investigators and provide their accounts has proven very helpful. “We certainly wouldn't mind if we kept getting contacts like that, on the contrary,” she says.

The missing computers are also being traced by their IP addresses. The hardware of the City of Espoo is currently maintained by CGI Finland and financed by Municipality Finance (MunFin), neither of which have anything to do with the devices in question.

Katja Kuokkanen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Rio Gandara / HS