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Finland PM accused of silencing media over mine deal

AFP  |  Helsinki 

Finnish media claimed today that the prime minister pressured public television to stop investigating an alleged conflict of interest after a company owned by his family won a major order from a nationalised mine.

The case centres on an order received by Katera Steel, an engineering company owned by Prime Minister Juha Sipila's family, from a nickel mine that had received a bailout from the state.

On November 11, the announced it would invest 100 million euros (USD 107 million) in Terrafame, the company operating the unprofitable mine that would likely have shut down without the intervention.

Sipila allegedly contacted the editor of public television Yle, Atte Jaaskelainen, and a journalist, following the publication of its first article on the issue to discourage further coverage, according to the weekly Suomen Kuvalehti.

The paper reported that the pressure allegedly led Yle to scale down coverage of the story.

Jaaskelainen denied bowing to pressure from the prime minister.

"My reasoning is that there was no reason to proceed with the matter... We took this decision ourselves on journalistic grounds," he wrote on the Yle website.

Sipila has denied any wrongdoing in the transaction.

"I know I have not been improper or biased in this case," Sipila told Finnish agency STT on Saturday.

Production at the Talvivaara mine about 500 kilometres north of Helsinki began in 2008 and was one of the largest nickel mines in It was nationalised in 2014 to avoid closure.

It caused one of the worst environmental disasters in the country's history when, in 2012, a leak led to nickel, cadmium, uranium and zinc seeping into surrounding rivers and lakes.

A parliamentary watchdog is probing the prime minister's role in the allocation of taxpayer funds to the mine.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, November 30 2016. 18:28 IST