A British man left destitute when his spinal cord was severed three years ago while trying to help a knife victim in Finland’s only terrorist attack is being prosecuted for opening a GoFundMe account.
Finnish prosecutors at the Southwestern Finland District Court are demanding the money deemed as the ‘benefit’ of the ‘fraud’ be handed over by Hassan Zubier, which was put at just over 24,000 GBP.
The Finnish Interior Ministry confirms on its homepage that licences are needed and that any fundraising campaigns need to be registered with the police if they are not to be branded unlawful. They also advise people not to donate to any unregistered campaigns. (https://bit.ly/2DLThaL)
The Finnish police said the same with regards to crowdfunding projects on their web site (https://bit.ly/31LiKJC).
The GoFundMe campaign was set up by a resident of Vaasa, a city on the western coast of Finland, for Hassan Zubier,, who has British citizenship, in December 2017 and it managed to raise about 32,000 EUR (28,900 GBP). He said he spent the money on food, loans, a car and nappies. (https://bit.ly/31L6IQd)
The fund creator, Sonya Hostman, said she did not realise that the fundraiser needed permission from the police.
Prosecutors also claim he misrepresented his employment history in order to gain more benefits which he has admitted, but says he acted out of desperation at the time having been crippled and no longer able to work as a result of the attack.
Zubier, considered a hero for his actions during the 2017 Turku knife attack which saw 10 people stabbed and two women killed, appeared at the Southwestern Finland District Court this week (Tue).
The British tourist was seriously injured when he tried to save the life of one of the victims at Turku Market Square on 18th August 2017.
In Finland, he is known as the tourist who became an overnight hero over the incident. He was recognised with a life saving medal for his heroic acts and became the first foreigner to have received the Finnish award. Queen Elizabeth also bestowed the George Medal for acts of bravery on Zubier.
In June 2018, the attacker, Abderrahman Bouanane, who was a failed Moroccan asylum seeker, was jailed for life.
The court found Bouanane guilty of two counts of murder with terrorist intent and eight counts of attempted murder with terrorist intent. It was the first time anybody had been sentenced for a terrorist offence in Finland.
However, prosecutors have now accused Zubier, who lives in Sweden, of lying about his income during the terrorist’s trial.
They say he gave the court a fake employment document that claimed he had lost income from a Swedish ambulance firm as a result of the terror attack. It was later discovered that he had never worked for the ambulance company.
At the time he was being assessed for benefits, the court awarded him a disability pension of just under 1,000 EUR (903 GBP) a month until he turns 65, or for around 20 years. Zubier admitted that he had forged documents in his benefits application.
He admitted the allegations and accepted a prosecution statement that he should be given a suspended sentence, but he also faces charges over the unlicensed GoFundMe account.
Zubier and a female defendant are accused of illegal fundraising activities. It is unclear if the female defendant is Sonya Hostman. Officials stepped in when it was realised that he did not have the necessary permit to run a collection campaign in Finland.
For this alleged offence, prosecutors have demanded that the two defendants pay the state nearly 27,000 EUR (24,370 GBP) from the fundraising proceeds. They say this represents the proceeds of the fundraising scheme. It is currently unclear why the prosecutors are demanding 27,000 EUR, when the total amount raised was 32,000 EUR.
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