Jail term for theft of disused railway track
Man sold rails for scrap for EUR 38,000
One of the more bizarre crime stories to come out of Finland in the past few years was resolved in court in the Lapland city of Kemijärvi on Tuesday.
A man from Salla, a community close to the Russian border in Eastern Lapland, was sentenced to a nine-month prison term for the theft last year of a decent quantity of disused railway track (see article from 2008).
The convicted man was also ordered to pay in excess of EUR 50,000 in compensation to various parties.
The man's legal counsel has said he will take the matter to the Appeals Court.
The Kemijärvi District Court found the defendant guilty of aggravated theft in that he tore up and removed 1.7 kilometres of museum track without the permission of the Finnish Rail Administration.
The man had in fact applied to the authorities for permission to dismantle the track, but when the permit was turned down, he posed as a contractor and enlisted local volunteers - who were blissfully unaware of the non-legitimate nature of the exercise - in the task of removing the rails that led up to the Russian border.
The heavy steel rails were carried by tractor to the nearest road, where they were loaded onto a truck to be taken in three instalments to Oulu, where they were sold for scrap.
Each load weighed around 40 tons and was worth in the region of EUR 13,000.
The man collected EUR 38,000 for his pains. Some of the rails have since been recovered.
The theft had come to light when a few locals had enquired of the Finnish Rail Administration about the rather odd demolition job going on on the disused line.
Not surprisingly, the case is exceptional in Finnish legal history, albeit that thefts of scrap metal have become more common in recent years, owing to rising prices for the material.
The disused railway section in question was built on the orders of the Soviet Union immediately after the Winter War of 1939-40.
Prisoners were used as labour.
Salla itself is the terminus of a freight-only railway line from Kemijärvi.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Thief carried off kilometres of disused railway track in Lapland (14.8.2008)