MP Ilkka Kanerva convicted of aggravated bribery - gets suspended sentence
The Helsinki District Court convicted National Coalition Party MP and former Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva on Wednesday morning of aggravated bribe-taking and dereliction of duty. He was given a suspended prison sentence of a year and three months.
Kanerva’s sentencing was part of an extensive case of bribery and election funding linked with the bankruptcy of the Nova Group.
State Prosecutor Jukka Rappe had called for a prison sentence of at least two years.
The bribery charges involved Kanerva’s activities as chairman of the Regional Council of Southwest Finland between 2006 and 2008.
The prosecution said that four businessmen contributed tens of thousands of euros to Kanerva’s 60th birthday celebrations in 2008 and to his election campaign fund, hoping to get favourable decisions on zoning matters from the regional council.
The prosecution alleged that businessmen Arto Merisalo, Tapani Yli-Saunamäki, Kyösti Kakkonen, and Toivo Sukari wanted to build large shopping complexes in the region and were looking for appropriate areas for the purpose.
Toivo Sukari got an eight-month suspended sentence for aggravated bribery. Kyösti Kakkonen was acquitted.
Merisalo and Yli-Saunamäki were also convicted of bribing Kanerva, as well as other misdeeds linked with the Nova case.
Merisalo was sentenced to six years in prison and Yli-Saunamäki got a custodial sentence of three and a half years.
The decision to convict Kanerva and Sukari was not unanimous. All of the defendants had pleaded not guilty.
Kanerva, who rushed to a meeting of Parliament’s Foreign Affairs committee on Wednesday morning, said that he was surprised at the decision and said that he would appeal his conviction.
“I feel that this is extremely wrong, because I have not committed any crimes in connection with this matter, and witness testimony speaks in the same direction”, Kanerva said.
He said that he was mentally prepared for different options, “But I admit that this went beyond what I felt was likely even in the worst scenario.”
Kanerva said that he will discuss the matter with the Parliamentary group of the National Coalition Party. He wants to continue to be an active member of the group.
Seppo Tiitinen, the Secretary General of the Finnish Parliament, said that Kanerva cannot be removed from Parliament until the entire appeals process has been exhausted.
Kanerva is no stranger to controversy.
In 2008 he was forced to resign from his position as Minister for Foreign Affairs over a scandal involving hundreds of text messages sent to an erotic dancer from his work mobile phone.
Kanerva, 64, has nevertheless been returned to Parliament routinely and with a sizeable vote since 1975, and was re-elected last year in spite of the serious charges hanging over his head at the time.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Arguments conclude in Ilkka Kanerva bribery trial (1.12.2011)
Bribery trial of MP Ilkka Kanerva begins (15.11.2011)
Kanerva bribery investigation passed on to prosecutors for consideration (6.9.2010)
Police question Ilkka Kanerva over financing of 60th birthday party (29.3.2010)
MP and former Foreign Minister Ilkka Kanerva to face aggravated bribery charges over EUR 50,000 contributions (28.1.2011)
Foreign Minister pulls out all the stops in 60th birthday bash (28.1.2008)
Ilkka Kanerva (Wikipedia)