February 1, 2017 / 12:57 PM / 3 years ago

Finnish PM cleared in nickel mine conflict of interest review

HELSINKI, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Juha Sipila was cleared by Finland’s parliamentary watchdog on Wednesday of any conflict of interest over the government’s funding decisions for a state-owned nickel mine, following a public outcry.

The watchdog reviewed the case after public broadcaster YLE reported in November that Katera Steel, an engineering company owned by Sipila’s relatives, received a half-million-euro order from state-owned miner Terrafame, around the time when Terrafame received a cash injection from the state.

The parliamentary ombudsman said that Katera Steel was not dependent on its business with Terrafame, and found no connection between the government funding and the order.

“There is no reason to suspect that prime minister Sipila would have acted partially to benefit Katera Steel,” the watchdog said in a statement.

The decision to provide more money for Terrafame marked a U-turn for the austerity-minded government, which had earlier said it would start closing the mine if no private investors were found by the end of the 2016.

“The review matches with my own judgment of the situation and is unambiguous and clear, I have nothing more to add,” Sipila told Finnish news agency STT.

In November, YLE’s story sparked criticism against Sipila and was followed up by another stir: Sipila complained to the broadcaster, and in December, two reporters quit the company, saying it had suppressed critical reporting on politicians. (Reporting by Tuomas Forsell; Editing by Jussi Rosendahl and Alison Williams)

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