The National Emergency Supply Agency (HVK) in April 2020 took delivery of face masks that, upon further inspection, proved unfit for hospital use. (Kalle Parkkinen – Lehtikuva)

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THE NATIONAL EMERGENCY SUPPLY AGENCY (HVK) has won a legal action to invalidate its acquisition of face masks from Look Medical Care, an Estonia-based personal care company owned by Finnish entrepreneur Tiina Jylhä.

An Estonian court yesterday upheld an earlier ruling in the case to allow the agency to recover its 2.6-million-euro initial payment, equivalent to half of the acquisition value, according to STT.

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The Harju District Court in Estonia ruled in July that HVK had sufficient grounds for invalidating the transaction because the masks had not been delivered by the agreed deadline. Look Medical Care’s Estonian bank had frozen the down payment, citing money laundering suspicions and the value of the payment relative to the company’s size.

Jylhä had previously also lied to tax authorities, according to the court. She has the option to seek leave to appeal from the Supreme Court of Estonia.

The ill-fated acquisition caused a public uproar last spring in Finland. Suomen Kuvalehti in April wrote that HVK had ordered 10 million euros’ worth of face masks from Jylhä and Onni Sarmaste, a Finnish entrepreneur with a history of financial discrepancies. It was later reported that the first batch of masks was both smaller and of worse quality than specified in the order.

Tests by VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland showed that the masks were unfit for hospital use in Europe.

The National Bureau of Investigation (KRP) in April opened an investigation into the acquisition, revealing that a handful of people are suspected of aggravated fraud and aggravated money laundering. Sarmaste has confirmed that he has been in detention but denied all criminal accusations.

KRP announced a month later it has expanded its investigation to also include three employees of HVK.

Aleksi Teivainen – HT

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