A 25-year-old man suspected of the sexual abuse of a girl below the age of 15 in Oulu, north-western Finland, who was arrested in Germany last Tuesday, is now at large, Finnish national broadcaster Yle reported.
According to the Oulu Police, there were shortcomings in communication between the authorities which led to the man being released before the authorities ultimately transferred him to Finland. Oulu Police Criminal Prosecutor Markus Kiiskinen said no further information on the causes of communication errors is available as of now. Whether the problem arose in Finland or in Germany remains unclear.
"This is a unique case, speaking about international police activities. I still believe we will find the suspect, although now it seems as if it will take a little longer", Kiiskinen told Yle.
The suspect is now internationally wanted. Oulu's district court detained the 25-year-old in absentia on suspicion of gross sexual exploitation of children, as well as gross rape. Last week, the police published the man's name and a picture of him, asking the public for tips. Shortly afterward he was arrested in Germany.
The man is suspected of being involved in a grooming gang case that has received much attention in recent weeks. Not only did it prompt severe condemnation from Finnish authorities, including Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and President Sauli Niinistö, but also sparked a debate on harsher penalties, including deportation and stripping rapists of their Finnish citizenship.
7 men of foreign origin were previously arrested on suspicion of rape of underage girls. The men have all come to Finland either as asylum seekers or as refugees, mostly from the Middle East. In total, the Oulu police are currently investigating 5 cases of sexual assault, with girls as young as 10 as victims.
With the backdrop of the grooming gang scandal, the Oulu police urged young girls and their parents to be extra attentive in social media, where the suspected perpetrators targeted their victims.
At the same time, the Oulu police informed that people with a foreign background have recently been subjected to hate speech, threats and inappropriate behaviour. According to the police, even foreign families with children have been subjected to such treatment. While it is perfectly understandable that sexual offences against children raise strong feelings, the police argued, it is important that no one is unlawfully threatened or persecuted.
The police specifically warned citizens against taking the law into their own hands.
"We hope we won't have to spend our time investigating hate crimes against people of foreign background. Instead, we shall use this time to investigate these serious sexual offences", the Oulu Police said.