Jari Aarnio, a former head of drug enforcement at Helsinki Police Department, attended a preliminary hearing in the murder case at the District Court of Helsinki on 8 June 2020. (Vesa Moilanen – Lehtikuva)


JARI AARNIO, a former leader of the drug enforcement unit at Helsinki Police Department, has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Volkan Ünsal, a Swedish-Turkish man who was killed in a private residence in Vuosaari, an eastern neighbourhood of the Finnish capital, in October 2003, reports Helsingin Sanomat.

The District Court of Helsinki on Tuesday ruled that Aarnio had knowledge of the murder conspiracy but neglected to take action to foil it.

The National Bureau of Investigation (KRP) re-opened the murder case in 2016, following the emergence of signs that it the original investigation had failed to consider all the relevant circumstances. Its investigation brought to light a wealth of information that the original investigators had failed to unearth.

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Four people were sentenced to life in prison for the murder after the original investigation.

The District Court of Helsinki rejected the murder charge brought against former gang leader Keijo Vilhunen, ruling that he had not participated in the conspiracy even as an accessory. The alternative sequence of events he presented, the court ruled, was credible enough to leave reasonable doubt about his culpability.

Both Aarnio and Vilhunen denied the charges, contradicting each other in the course of the investigation. Vilhunen confirmed that he was aware of the murder conspiracy but added that, as a police informant, he conveyed all his information to Aarnio, thinking police would prevent the homicide.

Aarnio denied receiving any information about the conspiracy from Vilhunen, arguing that his knowledge of it was founded on rumours at best.

The court ruled, however, that he learnt about the threat against Ünsal in June 2003. He also knew that the victim came to visit a childhood friend in Finland at the end of September 2003, a couple of weeks before the homicide took place in mid-October.

“Aarnio’s information about the homicide conspiracy was clarified and he was aware of the suspected offenders,” the judges noted, highlighting that he had placed the conspirators under surveillance but neglected to notify the officers conducting the operation of the murder conspiracy.

The court pointed out that by taking action he essentially took it upon himself to prevent the killing and was responsible for protecting the life of Ünsal. “Aarnio thus had a special statutory obligation to prevent the homicide,” it said.

The fact that he did not take any action to prevent the homicide meant that he had to consider it fairly likely that the homicide will be carried out.

“Aarnio had information about the fact that it was a premeditated contract killing. His deliberate negligence also had a causal relationship with the death of Ünsal,” the ruling read according to Helsingin Sanomat.

Riitta Leppiniemi, the defence counsel of Aarnio, stated to the newspaper that it is obvious that the defence will appeal against the ruling to the Helsinki Court of Appeal. “The ruling was indeed a shock from the viewpoint of both the defence and client,” she commented.

Aarnio is already serving a 10-year prison sentence slapped on him in 2016 for his role in the distribution of narcotics imported to Finland from the Netherlands in 2011–2012.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT