Philadelphia Flyers forward Jori Lehtera was charged Monday with buying drugs in his native country of Finland. Specifically, the charges allege that the 31-year-old bought eight grams of cocaine at nightclubs in Tampere, Finland, between June and July of 2018, and also that he attempted to buy another gram in May 2018.
Prosecutors are seeking a five-month suspended sentence for Lehtera, according to the Finnish newspaper Aamulehti. He was not required to be in court Monday in Tampere, Finland.
“As I have maintained from the outset, these charges against me are false and I will clear my name,” said Lehtera in a statement issued by the Flyers. “I will have no further comment on the matter until that time.”
The NHL announced in September it was investigating Lehtera after a Finnish news outlet reported he was questioned by police about his involvement in a cocaine ring. An online translation of the report said Lehtera was among 23 suspects from a group accused of distributing two kilos of cocaine since January of 2017, and that a house Lehtera owns was raided. The report added that seven people had been jailed relating to the case.
According to Philly.com, Lehtera told police that he knows two of the men who also have been charged, but he denies buying drugs from them. Instead, Lehtera maintains he once paid 6,000 Euros for drug rehab for one of the men.
“I paid for his detoxing treatment,” Lehtera told the police, according to a report on Finnish TV1. “For my part, it was charity. I felt I did the right thing.”
Following practice Monday in Raleigh, N.C., where the Flyers lost to the Carolina Hurricanes on New Year’s Eve, Lehtera said he would fight the charges.
“It’s all false,” Lehtera said. “I haven’t done anything wrong. I’m going to clear my name. I don’t want to comment anymore. I’ll comment after the whole case is closed.”
NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said in an email that Lehtera had yet to be legally served, and that “as a result, we will not be intervening at this point and will continue to monitor the legal proceedings.”
The Flyers have said he is not injured, but Lehtera has played in only 24 games this season. He has a goal and two assists.
In 24 games for the Flyers this season, Lehtera has one goal and two assists. He has been a healthy scratch for the last six games and will become an unrestricted free agent after the season.
—Field Level Media