HELSINKI (AP) — Vladimir Putin, banned in Finland?
Finnish police say the Russian president's name was mistakenly placed on a secret criminal register that could theoretically have gotten him arrested at the border.
TV station MTV3 reported Wednesday that Putin was placed there for his contact with Russian motorcycle gang Night Wolves, though he wasn't suspected of a crime in Finland. But National Police Board spokesman Robin Lardot told the AP the listing was a mistake and that Putin's name was removed from the list.
"The National Police Board has investigated the case and indeed found that such a mistaken entry was in the register," Lardot told The Associated Press. "We have ordered it to be removed and are investigating the case very thoroughly. We don't know how it got there." He declined further comment.
Putin's inclusion would be a major source of embarrassment in bilateral relations.
Finnish Interior Minister Paivi Rasanen, whose ministry oversees the police, conveyed her "sincerest apologies" to Putin over the mistaken entry.
"The Interior Ministry considers it of grave concern if a member of the police has made such groundless entries into the database of suspects."
MTV3 said the content of the register is known only to a few top officials. But in a statement later Wednesday, police called it a "computerized personal data file intended for nationwide used by the police."
They said it includes information on people who are suspected of offenses punishable by prison "or having contributed to an offence subject to imprisonment of more than six months, or to an unlawful use of narcotics."
The Night Wolves says on its Web site that the club's prototype was born in the 1980s from the desire to protect musicians who were holding illegal concerts during the Soviet era.
The muscle-flexing Russian leader has not been averse to being associated with tough bikers and has described motorcycles as "the most dramatic form of transport."
Three years ago, he leaped onto a Harley Davidson to join about 5,000 bikers at an international convention in southern Ukraine sporting black sunglasses, black jeans and black fingerless gloves.
The head of Finland's national police force, Mikko Paatero, apologized for the "mistaken" inclusion of Putin's name in the database.
"This kind of incident is extremely exceptional and is not acceptable under any circumstances," Paatero said in a statement.