Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat has shed light on a scam worth millions of Euros involving a Finnish national living in Estonia. The scheme comes in a rather worthy guise, that of combating and preventing bullying, the paper reported.
The paper reports that one Antti Alastalo, a 52-year-old Finnish citizen who lives in Estonia and has previous convictions for fraudulent activities to his name, has been involved in a large scale scam, operating from companies under his name in Spain as well as Estonia.
Alastalo has, according to Helsingin Sanomat (HS), operated fraudulently in his publishing of the Finnish-language Kouluturvaa ('school security'), a magazine-type publication aimed at fighting bullying in schools and raising money for that in the process. In this way the publication might be seen as in tune with the times in Estonia, where the 'bullying free school' (Kiusamisvabakool in Estonian) project has even gained presidential approval.
However, for one thing, Kouluturvaa has been, according to HS, a verbatim copy of a 2011 Finnish publication called Koulurauhaa ('school peace') which Alastalo is passing off as his own work.
Underhand sales tactics
The extent of Alastalo's reported misdeeds do not stop at mere plagiarism, however. He also, according to HS, used aggressive and underhand sales methods when promoting Kouluturvaa, such as billing a person for a subscription who had not subscribed to the publication, or double-billing people who had only placed one subscription.
Alastalo's companies have been operating primarily from Spain, HS says, where telesales staff have also been hired.
Employees of Alastalo have also experienced unethical treatment such as not being paid their full wages, if at all, or being put up in properties rented by Alastalo's firms which were supposed to pay the rent to the property owners, and failed to do so.
Complaints in Finland
Only a small Alastalo outfit operates in Finland, the paper reports, and that is primarily for accounting and order collection purposes.
The majority of sales and orders have been made through two companies owned by Alastalo's investment firm Argumentor, and registered in Estonia, namely Telesales Partners and Teleforce Europa, HS writes.
Consumer protection bodies in Finland, as well as the police, have received over a thousand complaints or communications about Kouluturvaa, and it has been investigated for fraudulent activities since spring this year, according to HS.
Whilst it is not known if any of the millions of Euros Alastalo has raised from his activities Kouluturvaa have found their way to helping the victims of bullying, it is suspected that much of it has not and this would represent a large scale fraud.
Editor: Andrew Whyte