Syria's 'Toy Smuggler' under investigation in Finland over allegations of fraud

A boy carries a toy gun while riding a pick-up truck during a demonstration calling for aid to reach Aleppo on Sept 14, 2016.
A boy carries a toy gun while riding a pick-up truck during a demonstration calling for aid to reach Aleppo on Sept 14, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

HELSINKI (AFP) - Finnish police said on Friday (Oct 21) they would probe fraud accusations against Mr Rami Adham, a Finnish-Syrian dubbed the "Toy Smuggler" for his campaign to collect funds for orphans in Aleppo.

The 42-year-old father of six has gained global media attention by making trips to the besieged Syrian city to bring toys and financial help for Syrian orphans.

But the police said they had received several requests for investigation from citizens suspecting Mr Adham might have withheld part of the donations.

"A preliminary investigation is underway and we will determine as soon as possible if there are grounds for suspecting a crime" has been committed, chief crime inspector Tero Haapala of the Finnish National Bureau of Investigation said.

Inspector Haapala said police are also looking into Mr Adham's writings on Facebook to see "if they include hate speech or incitement to ethnic hatred", after media reports said Mr Adham had attacked Shi'ites on social media.

Agence France-Presse could not reach Mr Adham for immediate comment.

On Friday, Finland's largest daily Helsingin Sanomat said Mr Adham's partner, the Alkefah Institute in Syria, accused him of withholding part of the donations intended for the orphans.

The paper also reported, citing what it said were Mr Adham's personal messages, that he had invented a story and faked a picture of himself being injured in a bombing during one of his many visits to Syria, in order to attract more media attention and donations.

Mr Adham has strictly denied both accusations, claiming he has delivered aid for the children in different forms, not only in cash, and that his injuries were real.

Other media reports say Mr Adham has a criminal record, including for assault.