Human trafficking cases from Finland
Girl from Eastern Finland coerced into prostitutionIn 2016, a 54-year-old university lecturer from Eastern Finland was sentenced to imprisonment for a term of nine years and four months. He was sentenced for several charges, including aggravated trafficking in human beings. He had been abusing and procuring an underage girl for years. In addition to this, he was sentenced for assaults, for aggravated sexual abuse of a child and for possession and distribution of a sexually offensive picture depicting a child.
In 2011, the lecturer met a 14-year-old Finnish girl online and initiated a sexual relationship with her. The girl was having trouble at home and soon moved in with the lecturer. He engaged the girl in sadomasochistic sex, which consisted of intercourse and violent elements, such as choking, bondage and beating. In addition to this, the lecturer physically assaulted the girl. The conditions in which the girl lived with the lecturer have been described as sexual slavery. She was considered to have been so dependent on her abuser that she was unable to leave the relationship.
The lecturer also made the girl prostitute herself so that she could “cover her share of the living expenses”. The lecturer found the clients for her and arranged facilities where she could meet them. The girl met with clients all over Finland. According to the District Court that passed the sentence, the number of sex buyers was 400. The girl herself estimated the number to be as high as 600. So far, the authorities have not managed to bring these clients to justice.
The lecturer may also have had other victims, but they have not been found so far. The lecturer had also had contact with several other children and teenagers via Skype. The police found a large number of sexual messages sent to underage persons on his computer. Since the conversations had been carried out using encrypted connections and screen names, the police have not been able to establish how many victims there really are.
• MTV Uutiset 13 April 2016 (in Finnish only): ”Yliopiston lehtori piti varhaisteiniä vuosia seksiorjanaan. Uhri oli epäillyn kovassa kontrollissa”
• MTV Uutiset 3 June 2016 (in Finnish only): ”Yliopistonlehtori paritti hyväksikäyttämäänsä teini-ikäistä tyttöä – asiakkaita ollut jopa satoja”
Forced labour in Western FinlandEmployees who leave the workplace at any hour lose their jobs, or a fine is deducted from their salaries. In their spare time, employees may visit the local grocery store but are not allowed to speak to anyone there. Employees must stay at the workplace or in their apartment, which is in the immediate vicinity of the workplace. Those who break these rules will be punished. These were the instructions given to workers from Kyrgyzstan by a joinery company called Kotasen Puutyö.
The company recruited workers from Kyrgyzstan, where the standard of living is considerably lower than in Finland. As the company had been experiencing a labour shortage, the Kyrgyz workers were the perfect solution for the problem. The man in charge of the recruitment process, Aliev, worked as a foreperson at the company and was also from Kyrgyzstan. Aliev took care of all communication between the employees and the Finnish owners of the company. Aliev was also tasked with handing out wages to the employees.
Aliev decided to benefit from the situation. He made his fellow countrymen work considerably more hours than agreed but never notified the payroll unit of the overtime. Wages were paid to the employees’ bank accounts in accordance with the employment contract, but the employees received only a fraction of the sum. Aliev had taken over the employees’ bank accounts, debit cards and banking credentials. Some of the employees did not even know that they had a bank account.
Aliev had also seized the employees’ passports. Aliev ordered that the employees must commit to working for one or two years before they were allowed to travel to their home country for a holiday. Those who broke the rule were punished. Aliev forced one of the employees to pay a fine of over 3,000 euros because the employee had visited his home country in order to be present when his wife gave birth to their child. Some of the employees got into debt with Aliev, which made their position even worse.
On 28 January 2013, the District Court of Ostrobothnia sentenced Aliev for trafficking in human beings, aggravated embezzlement and assault. The injured parties in the matter were the 26 Kyrgyz employees who had become victims of human trafficking. The Court found that even though the victims had entered the employment relationship voluntarily, the working conditions were to be considered forced labour. The Finnish owners of Kotasen Puutyö were sentenced for extortionate work discrimination. The Court found that the company had neglected its supervisory duty and that the Kotanen family had in fact been aware of the employees’ long working days. The Vaasa Court of Appeal upheld the District Court’s ruling.
Decision by the District Court of Ostrobothnia (13/117, record number: R 12/1683, 28 January 2013); Decision by the Vaasa Court of Appeal (1210, record number: R 13/309, 20 November 2013).
The 26 berry pickers from Thailand in Central FinlandOn 19 January 2018, the District Court of Central Finland sentenced a middle-aged Finnish berry entrepreneur to conditional imprisonment for a term of one year and eight months for trafficking in human beings and other offences.
His victims were 26 Thais who had been recruited from Thailand to come and pick mushrooms and berries in Finland for the man’s berry business. The victims worked for the berry company during the summer and autumn of 2016.
According to the judgement, the 50-year-old entrepreneur had exploited the dependent and unsafe position of the workers in order to push them into forced labour and to subject them to conditions that violate human dignity.
The entrepreneur had recruited the berry pickers from Thailand, brought them to Finland and housed them in buses. The authorities considered the accommodation to be insanitary and unsafe, and the accommodation fee was unreasonably high considering the standard of the facilities.
The berry pickers were forced to work for 12–15 hours a day to be able to pay off the debt caused by their travel and other arrangements. In addition to these arrangements, the berry pickers had to cover all their other expenses, starting from the berry picking equipment. For some of them, the job was unprofitable. According to the prosecutor, the berry pickers, who did not speak the language and some of whom could not read, had no other option than to accept the accommodation provided for them by the berry company and to sell the berries they picked to the entrepreneur for the price that he had set.
The case was brought to the authorities’ attention when concerned outsiders helped one of the berry pickers to contact the Finnish Assistance System for Victims of Human Trafficking, which in turn reported the matter to the Central Finland Police Department. The District Court’s decision has been appealed, which means that it is not yet final.
Decision by the District Court of Central Finland (18/100182, record number R 17/373, 19 January 2018).
Young Nigerian woman coerced into prostitutionJessica (not her real name) was still underage when she came from Nigeria to Europe and began to prostitute herself. She was recruited for sex work by a Nigerian woman who was staying in Italy at the time. The woman promised to get Jessica a job in Italy. With her salary, Jessica would be able to ease the difficult financial situation of her family.
When Jessica arrived in Italy, the woman told Jessica that she owed the woman 15,000 euros for the travel arrangements and that the debt must be paid off through prostitution. Jessica was not in possession of her own passport; she had used the passport of the woman who recruited her. For this, Jessica owed her 800 euros. Jessica, who was very young, penniless, without a passport and in a foreign country, had no other option than to do as she was told.
The woman showed Jessica where she was to work and told her to charge 20–50 euros per client. Jessica had about four clients a day. She noticed early on that she was being watched and that her actions were being monitored. Reports of what she did always reached the woman. The woman took almost all the money Jessica made, and no money was left over to be sent back home.
Jessica did not have enough money to return to her home country, and she would not have been able to pay off her debt back there anyway. She had to keep doing what the woman demanded of her. Jessica turned 18 while she was being exploited.
The woman thought that Jessica did not make enough money in Italy and decided to take Jessica to Finland with her. In Finland, the clients would pay more. Jessica had five or six clients a day in Finland. She charged 100–150 euros per client for sex. Jessica was forced to do sex work in several Finnish cities, including Vantaa, Tampere and Oulu. There was also another Nigerian woman in Finland who participated in procuring Jessica.
On 23 March 2017, the District Court of Vantaa sentenced the Nigerian woman to imprisonment for a term of three years and ten months for several charges, one of them being aggravated trafficking in human beings. The second Nigerian woman was sentenced to conditional imprisonment for pandering. After the decision was appealed, the Helsinki Court of Appeal concluded that the trafficking offence was not aggravated and reduced the main offender’s sentence to imprisonment for a term of two years and five months.
Helsinki Court of Appeal, 16 January 2018, decision 18/101755, record number R 17/1046; Decision by District Court of Vantaa, 23 March 2017, number 112042.