A riddle for our time: who are the grey cardinals? Part One

Lietuvos energija
DELFI / Karolina Pansevič

Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis abruptly dismissed his energy advisor Tomas Garasimavičius in March this year. Skvernelis claims he had lost political trust in his advisor.

Just over a month later, Lietuvos Energija launched an internal audit into former presidential advisor and Cogeneration Power Plant Projects head Nerijus Rasburskis‘s links with AF-Consult which Rasburskis sold to the Finns around 10 years ago. The company now provides multi-million dollar consultancy services to the Vilnius and Kaunas cogeneration plants.

It turns out that both of these individuals and their stories may be closely intertwined. According to an energy or politician pundits, these people could be grey energy cardinals.

In May, the Prime Minister made another mysterious reference to the “energy cardinals.” During Government Hour in the Seimas, he stated that the elimination of Danpower was sought by a “group of friends”, including former government advisors, Lietuvos Energija and security services staff.

He also stated that Lietuvos Energija’s cogeneration plant projects in Vilnius and Kaunas are corrupt, poison people and of dubious significance and could be an obstacle for other energy producers by preventing them from developing their own power plants.

Regarding obstacles, the Prime Minister mentioned one of the producers – Foksita – which has already won more than one court case. He also mentioned the Ministry of Energy has signed a peace agreement with Danpower Baltic for the company to abandon millions worth of claims for interference with the development of power plant projects in Vilnius and Kaunas.

The Prime Minister and the Ministry of Energy have been criticised by the media for this peace treaty given its potential to favour entrepreneurs Artūras and Augustinas Rakauskaitis, Alvydas Žabolis, as well as Dalė Rakauskienė and Agnytė Pitkauskienė – the latter two having involvement with companies undertaking power plant projects.

However, various documents, interviews with Seimas members — including ministers — show the two grey energy cardinals – Nerijus Rasburskis and former energy advisor to Algirdas Butkevičius and Saulius Skvernelis, and Tomas Garasimavičius who from 2013 to July 2017 was also a member of the Supervisory Board of Lietuvos Energija, were behind plans to obstruct the auction winners and push Lietuvos Energija” projects.

Dismissed because he was probably giving the wrong information to the Prime Minister, acting together with the president’s advisor

“We found information and facts that the advisor made and implemented non-governmental decisions and did not execute certain orders of the head of government, but he was engaged in other matters. In other words he had his own interests which he took care of, as it turned out, with not very acceptable methods “, Skvernelis gave as his reason for Mr. Garasimavičius’s dismissal.

Asked if Mr. Garasimavičius could represent the interests of Lietuvos Energija given he was a member of the company’s supervisory board, the Prime Minister stated there were reasons to think so, but believes this would serve the interests of others much more than that Lietuvos Energija. He also mentioned the advisor could have put pressure on the Ministry of Energy and the Ministry of Environment and limited the submission of certain information on energy projects to both him and former Prime Minister Butkevicius. The Prime Minister stated that as a result, service checks will likely be carried out in these two ministries.

He also claimed Mr. Garasimavičius was “pushing” projects of Lietuvos Energija cogeneration plants together with Nerijus Rasburskis, a former advisor to President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

Karolina Pansevič made mention of this to publication Kauno Diena in 2017, as did Mr. Algirdas Butkevičius when asked why the government had approved the construction of the Kaunas plant if European Commission experts had said the plant was superfluous to Lithuania’s needs because of an insufficient quantity of municipal waste.

“A commission was formed, specialists were at work and there was a former presidential advisor. And they didn’t advise me – they were the ones who made the decisions” said Mr. Butkevičius. When asked to clarify what is really being said about Rasburskis, Mr. Butkevičius repeated: “Yes, yes, the one who is now in Lietuvos Energija, who makes decisions independently … and who is responsible for the cogeneration plants” wrote Kauno Diena.

Yet when DELFI spoke to Mr. Butkevičius he spoke somewhat differently: “I can explain more clearly. I know that they phoned me (journalists – DELFI). Maybe I was out of the country at the time. They [Tomas Garasimavičius and Nerijus Rasburskis] did not influence the decision-making process, but prepared all the material and participated in the collection of material for the construction of the cogeneration plants”.

He also argued that Mr. Garasimavičius was competent and that Mr. Skvernelis’s decision to dismiss the advisor was surprising.

“It came as a surprise to me, I phoned him up and asked him why he had been dismissed because I was very concerned as to whether there had been any misconduct on his part or if maybe certain information provided had been given to me or the Prime Minister (i.e. Mr. Skvernelis – DELFI) when I was prime minister.

I trusted him and I want to say that this time I trust him completely because I considered him a decent and very competent person in the Energy field for which he was responsible. I in actual fact spoke with the prime minister who told me that Mr. Garasimavičius had provided incorrect information regarding the collection of waste in Lithuania and that incorrect information had been provided when I was the prime minister.

I subsequently met with Mr. Garasimavičius again. I didn’t hide it and actually asked him that question but he that he certainly did not do that and I truly believe that he really did not do that” said Mr Butkevicius.

Mr. Skvernelis sees things differently however. He argues that with personal interests in mind, Garasimavičius and Rasburskis were able to protect the Lietuvos Energija project which had been obstructing other projects for fear they would compete with the Lietuvos Energija projects.

Furthermore, the Prime Minister felt it strange that Mr. Rasburskis who, without the 12-month “cooling off” period in accordance with the Law on Public Service, became head of the Cogeneration Plant Project Division very soon after his employment in the President’s Office.

“I can only assume that he was delegated a specific task to implement specific decisions. How he implements them that again, and how he implements them – again there are now are final unappealed court verdicts and not with respect to just one company. And, as I said, there are doubts about the amount of waste, a wide range of estimates and finally there are doubts about the links with the companies that were previously owned “, – the Prime Minister told DELFI.

At the beginning of May, Lietuvos Energija launched an internal investigation into Mr. Rasburskis’s links with AF-Consult. The company had for many years belonged to Mr. Rasburskis under the name “Termosistemu Projektai”.

According to “State Enterprise Centre of Registers” data, in September 2008 the company was sold to a Swedish capital company and renamed AF-Consult. However, as of October 2008, Mr. Rasburskis continued as an employee with the company.

Currently AF-Consult provides millions of euros in consultancy services to the Vilnius and Kaunas projects. Lietuvos Energija distributed a report stating the internal investigations into the cogeneration plants and Mr Rasburskis’s links with AF-Consult had been completed. It was concluded no violations had taken place.

About Justina Ilkeviciute 15 Articles
Skaitytojas darosi vis reiklesnis, jam neužtenka tik „pliko“ teksto, todėl stengiuosi suderinti tekstinę informaciją su vizualine medžiaga, išsamiomis nuotraukų galerijomis, infografikais, laiko juostomis. Visa tai padeda labiau atskleisti temą, o skaitytojui tampa lengviau įsisavinti ir suprasti pateiktą turinį. 2015 m. baigiau VU žurnalistikos bakalauro studijas, šiuo metu žinias gilinu Tarptautinių santykių ir politikos mokslų institute.
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