Human language

HBL: Police investigating suspected extortion of Vietnamese greenhouse workers | News

Dozens of Vietnamese workers are suspected of being victims of extortion and possible human trafficking in a small town in western Finland.

A greenhouse in Närpes (file photo). Image: Yle/Jukka Tyni

Police are investigating the alleged exploitation of Vietnamese brought to Finland to work on vegetable farms in the west coast region of Ostrobothnia.

Dozens of Vietnamese workers are suspected of being victims of extortion and possibly human trafficking in the small town of Närpes in western Finland, according to the Hufvudstadsbladet (HBL) newspaper.

The suspects in the case are a Vietnamese couple and two greenhouse entrepreneurs based in Närpes (Närpiö), the Swedish-language daily reported on Sunday.

A Vietnamese broker allegedly charged his compatriots 10,000 to 20,000 euros each to bring them to Finland to work in the greenhouses, the newspaper said, citing “the systematic and long-term import of Vietnamese labor”.

Upon arrival, they received assistance in obtaining the necessary permits, then were immediately put to work. Arrivals include singles, couples and families with children.

According to local sources, some of the newly arrived workers have been housed in cramped, rudimentary and isolated facilities. Without information about Finnish laws, without the ability to speak Finnish or Swedish (the predominant local language), they were unable to challenge their inhuman working conditions.

Local couple in custody

A well-known Vietnamese business couple was officially taken into custody by the Ostrobothnia District Court on Friday, according to the newspaper. Two other suspects were arrested.

On Friday, Yle reported that the National Bureau of Investigation had teamed up with police from Helsinki and Ostrobothnia for a major financial crime investigation centered on Närpes and Vaasa, and that two people had been arrested. The case would then be linked to extortion, illegal entry and exploitation of workers.

According to HBL, the charges could include suspicion of human trafficking when the case is handed over to a prosecutor.

“We currently have four victims who have agreed to speak to the police. We suspect there may have been dozens of people over several years, but so far none of them have come forward to tell anything,” the inspector said. Pekka Hatonen, who heads the human trafficking unit at the Helsinki Police Department.

Meanwhile, police in Ostrobothnia are investigating two local greenhouse entrepreneurs on other possible criminal charges. According to HBL, one of them is an important player in the region and some of the workers who were brought to Finland in poor conditions mainly worked in his greenhouse. At this point, the owner of the greenhouse is not suspected of extortion, but is being investigated for financial irregularities.