Merchants at Kouvola’s China Centre market were left stunned last week, after a surprise immigration raid in the southern Finnish city.
In an extensive operation led by border guard officials and Finnish police, the market was the object of searches for illegal immigrants. Although most store owners kept their doors open, there were few customers to be found.
Two of the merchants, Jao Jianbo and Chen Xiaohong, spoke of the raid with colleagues. “We were not allowed to eat or drink for many hours,” they said. “We had to sit quietly.”
According to Helsingin Sanomat the main purpose of the operation was to conduct investigation into cases involving residency permit fraud and illegal immigration. Authorities seized mobile phones and computers as evidence with the owners not given any indication as to when they will be returned. “My relatives are worried, because I usually call them every day,” said Jao Jianbo.
Two Finnish women, Marjaleena Liikka and Irmeli Mynttinen, were visiting the market from their home in Kuusankoski. Both had praise for the China Centre service and for the links between the two countries. “They say that you get good service and treatment in Valkeala as well,” Liikka stated. The women were unsuccessful in their shoe-shopping trip, but, according to the report, were enchanted with a battery-operated cat.
Also raided on the same day was Valkeala’s Leishi health and fitness building where people were even more shocked than those at the China Centre. Employees did not wish to comment given their director had been driven to Helsinki. The former hospital continued to operate despite some cancellations.
Aimo Ahti, the Deputy Mayor of Kouvola and responsible for business affairs, discovered that he himself was on the list of suspects under investigation following the fraudulent use of an invitation carrying his name, which brought a foreign citizen to Vantaa to work in August last year. Ahti denied involvement and was surprised at the suspicion. “As far as I know, I have not committed any crime,” he claimed. The City of Kouvola did issue a statement which said that officials had not contacted local authorities on the matter.
Seven people were placed under arrest on suspicion of coordinating illegal entry into Finland. The group contained both men and women of Chinese and Finnish citizenship.