August 20, 2015 / 4:20 PM / 2 years ago

Santa goes bust over Finnish tax bill

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Finland's Santa Claus Office has been declared bankrupt over unpaid taxes after a sharp drop in visits from recession-hit Russians, once the center's best customers.

But Managing Director Jarmo Kariniemi said he believed the company, which employs around 20 people, could yet avoid closure over its 200,000 euro ($223,980) tax bill.

"We have one more week to come up with the money. I'm confident that we can handle this," said Kariniemi, whose firm offers the chance to be photographed with Santa for a fee.

The Santa Claus Office, one of several Santa-themed businesses in Lapland, had some 300,000 visitors last year and revenues of about 2 million euros.

Japanese tourists have replaced Russians as the center's leading customers, as sanctions imposed over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis and a sharp decline in the price of Russia's major export, oil, have hit its economy hard.

($1 = 0.8929 euros)

Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Jon Boyle

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