Bakas: I refused to use intelligence data for political attacks

Vytautas Bakas
Vytautas Bakas, DELFI / Andrius Ufartas

The MG Baltic group has presented an amended complaint about the compensation of non-property harm, naming Seimas Committee of National Security and Defence (NSGK) the former chairman Vytautas Bakas as the defendant for his supposed publication, use and intentional misleading interpretation of intelligence data, Rasuolė Bauraitė wrote in lrytas.lt

However, V. Bakas mentions that “Farmer” leader Ramūnas Karbauskis was also interested in making use of intelligence data for his own purposes.

“My “problems” with the “Farmer” party emerged when I refused to make use of intelligence data for political attacks. When I refused to do this, to seek compromising material – there were such hints – regarding specific politicians, who are in the opposition, weren’t useful in this case. […] Now with the current composition of the committee, there is a risk that intelligence information, which Dainius Gaižauskas and R. Karbauskis wanted, could be used to persecute opponents,” V. Bakas says.

Ignas Grinevičius and V. Bakas’ conversation on the Lietuvos Rytas television show Lietuva Tiesiogiai.

Mr. Bakas, accusations of you abusing your authority emerged when claims appeared in public that you operated on your own in the committee. In other terms, you were pushed into this situation by those, who were friendlies up to then?

That’s your claim, but the public will decipher what is happening. Obviously, all the committee’s sittings are available on YouTube, they are open, accessible and I am very glad about this even though there are efforts to make an exception for the NSGK, to seek for this to be a committee that should be hidden from the public.

At what point?

When the tradition of broadcasting emerged. Now, every Lithuanian citizen can go on YouTube, find an NSGK sitting and review the veracity of my colleagues’ statements – whether it was just me shut in there on my own, how we voted, whether decisions were bulldozed through, whether they were negotiated.

Regarding the conclusions of the parliamentary investigation on interest groups, this including the influence of the owners of MG Baltic on the political system, the corruption schemes they created – we voted unanimously, except Juozas Olekas abstaining.

Everyone else was in favour. Proposals, made when the conclusions were being written, were received and considered, a whole day was set aside for it. Back then, the unfortunate journalists long waited at the door for us to arrange all the proposals. I do not recall D. Gaižauskas’ proposal at all.

But what the plan is now, let’s not devolve to that sandbox. The plan is rather larger. The group is aiming to retain its influence because following the investigation, it became harder to operate for it than it was before. It had its own people in ten ministries and four state institutions, the State Tax Inspectorate, Radio and Television Commission and Lithuanian Railways.

This is no more, the doors have closed. Now court proceedings are underway and in the near future, there will be court rulings. It could be that the owners of that group will be sentenced to real prison time. If they are sentenced, what this means is that their companies will not receive any commissions, for example, they can be rejected by state institutions.

Massive resources are being poured into whitewashing the oligarchic group’s image, there are efforts to bulldoze through, the current political chaos is being exploited, politicians’ weaknesses, those, who may have garnered less attention. And thus, they achieve it, spreading such lies.

The final result is retaining influence and avoiding accountability. I understand it and am not preparing to involve myself at that level. My goal is to achieve that next year, the politicians, who served this oligarchic group and others, also their relatives, who live beyond their means, where they hide their incomes, that they would be forced to explain, where the funds come from.

Especially those, who took bribes for influencing certain legislative projects, but law enforcement lacks evidence. That just as in any normal civilised country, be it Ireland or the UK, or Italy, they would have to justify their incomes and source of wealth.

Because the group has now been dragged into the limelight, that’s it. Those people, MG Baltic, VP Market, who earlier created Leo LT – we publicised all of it, we revealed the people, who served. Today, there are certain signs of agony from those people and the group owners.

I believe that oligarchy will never return to Lithuania, the public will not tolerate it. The main patrons of those oligarchic groups are losing public confidence, like the Social Democrat Labour Party, we saw Gediminas Kirkilas, who actually maintained close connections to Darius Mockus.

We see other parties, for example, the Liberal Movement, who carry around boxes – trust in them is declining. It could be that after 2020, the public will not allow them access to decision making. There are signs of it.

Of course, now is the final year, both sides, both the oligarchs, who lived well and the departing politicians want to retain influence. They need to discredit this investigation, portray it as slanderous, that it was all illegal.

But the information is available, which was not the case before, regarding those deals, shady connections and the public can review every single claim. Even how the committee sittings were chaired.

In regard to the court proceedings, to my understanding, you have information that incarceration could be more likely than before?

Indeed, we toughened the incarceration punishment several years ago – it was at the initiative of the president and our committee, we looked after that amendment so that there would be incarceration as punishment for severe corruption crimes.

Furthermore, court practice, which used to be more lenient to corrupt figures, is changing, new Supreme Court judges are rising up and so yes, it is completely realistic that if it is ruled that crimes were made, these people could lose their freedom. It would be a massive achievement for Lithuania.

Those people, who live off of corrupt activities, would face adequate repercussions – that’s what international organisations advise us of. Unfortunately, currently, children, who rob stores or garden sheds, receive mind-bogglingly large punishments.

For example, I saw children, who robbed a few stores and are sentenced to 8 years in prison. But those, who have stolen from the country for years, avoid repercussions. This must change.

The content of the investigation contains a number of moments in regard to people in parliament. Gintautas Paluckas is brought up, as is the Homeland Union, having received support from Nemuno Bangos Grupė, Dujotekana, recently an open conflict erupted with G. Kirkilas regarding the investigation.

But back then, nearly everyone voted in favour, even G. Kirkilas himself. What changed since?

You see, this is evidence for you that the parliamentary investigation was performed in a way that there was no denying its findings. Even those people, for example, G. Kirkilas, who was mentioned regarding the Tennis Academy, other matters. I do not recall, how he voted, whether it was in favour of abstaining.

He and his six group members voted in favour.

This is a testament to the quality of the investigation. I just want to remind that I am now under attack for supposedly performing badly. Look at statements by R. Karbauskis, the Seimas speaker, the prime minister at that time. What ovations, how content everyone was. This shows that the investigation was of high quality.

I knew this, the committee worked on it together for 1.5 years. We reviewed every word that we released, we reviewed how to ensure prevention so that such things do not repeat. Every phrase released to the public was discussed in the committee.

For example, the declassifying of restricted information that I am now accused of, it was essentially done by a special commission of the State Security Department (VSD).

Truth be told, such accusations are laughable because they have a double floor. They are concerned with portraying to the public now that the investigation was poorly performed, perhaps even manufacturing a victim from all of this, how he was politically attacked.

I believe it will not work out. We really did perform our work rather successfully. What is important now, and I am not planning to be drawn into a war of words, is to pass the civilian property confiscation law, decisions, which would strengthen NGOs, legal lobbyists.

We need a counterbalance to illegal centres of power – to create legitimate centres of power, legal ones and these will push those out inherently. Oligarchs will be left as an unpleasant memory, the sort that we had about organised gangs, which would extort people.

D. Gaižauskas, your former colleague, has spoken about the incorrect interpretation of intelligence information. About how thanks to him, thanks to publication the group can prove and already is talking about taking it to Strasbourg that the process was politicised. Do you perceive such a threat?

If that’s the claim, then the correct interpretation of the information must be made. Come to the studio, he holds much attention now, and recount, what the correct version is. So far, such generic statements, I cannot evaluate them.

Part of them can easily be denied if you look at voting protocols, for votes he himself partook in. A part can be denied by simply looking at committee sitting recordings, which are publicly available. I believe that D. Gaižauskas has, consciously or not, chosen namely the side that is seeking to whitewash the uniform of a group that has caused great trouble for Lithuania.

Unfortunately, such is the case. Why it is, it’s hard to say. Detailed delving may be required. But trust me, the decision to declassify the information was made by the VSD and to the extent it wanted.

The recommendation to do so was made by the committee by a unanimous vote – I do not recall how J. Olekas voted, but it was a matter of political will. Our task was to publicise information and show to the public how the operations of oligarchic groups look so that the public could be resistant, could draw its own conclusions.

The investigation conclusions were approved by all of Seimas, 88 MPs, not Bakas on his own. This includes both opposition and position. Thus, claiming that it was a one-sided investigation, that would be very inaccurate. We can show examples of one-sided investigations, for example, those by Agnė Širinskienė, where there were efforts to persecute individual figures.

The opposition simply withdrew, the people left and it was left unapproved in Seimas. What came of it? Nothing did. Most likely, different reasoning should be sought for such statements.

What political powers’ decisive success do you predict for the civilian property confiscation law?

One of the reasons for my withdrawal was the refusal to include it in the coalition’s agenda.

But D. Gaižauskas swore that it is his legislation and everything will be.

Yet another way to deny this is to read the coalition agreement and you will see it. While there are details in other areas, this was removed. It is a fact, all accessible online. In the coalition agreement, the entire anti-corruption package has been removed – there’s nothing to even argue about.

But I think that with the backing of the opposition, perhaps even part of the “Farmer” group as well, the one that definitely recalls, what programme they ran in the elections with, we will be able to pass these laws already this year.

If not, I think as far as it depends on me, I will seek for political will to appear in the 2020 Seimas for there to be sufficient political will to pass these laws. But we still have a year’s time, let’s not give up.

You mentioned today that the group’s influence is resurgent. To what scale and why?

I have said that the oligarchic group’s influence is gradually returning, primarily through politicians, who served their interests. Just look at the composition of the committee, what it looks like, those people, for example, G. Kirkilas – he is a figure present in at least three intelligence investigations that have been publicised.

Did he know of this when voting on the investigation?

When voting was done, the documents had already been publicised, declassified. His name is also mentioned in Mindaugas Bastys’ career, namely the latter being his advisor and receiving permits to work with classified information. Later, it turned out that he acted against state interests.

Second, G. Kirkilas had a vast role in creating the Leo LT affair, which was named by many politicians, analysts, journalists and jurists to be an oligarchic project. And third, his connections to the owners of the MG Baltic group are also evident. Now the man comes up to combat corruption. It looks rather peculiar.

But it ensures that the group will know about the processes ongoing in the NSGK. What is also concerning, and we will seek solutions, the group’s lawyers and they are very interested in finding out the information that has not been declassified. They are very interested in finding out how much information law enforcement has on them that is not yet declassified. That’s the part that A. Širinskienė sought for the Legal Affairs Committee, but was refused.

Influence is also possible there?

There, knowing how much information law enforcement has on them, they can simply adequately construct their defence.

Do you want to say that it can be done through the Legal Affairs Committee led by A. Širinskienė?

It can also be done through the current NSGK because you can get all the documents. All of the investigation materials.

But up to then, other approaches were sought.

Up to then, other ways to grasp the material and use it for political goals were used. My “problems” with the “Farmer” party emerged when I refused to make use of intelligence data for political attacks.

When I refused to do this, to seek compromising material – there were such hints – regarding specific politicians, who are in the opposition, weren’t useful in this case

In the Homeland Union?

And I said I would not do what was done in 2006. That’s when my problems started. I said that everyone, who joined in on serving the oligarchs, will be named. That was done. The architects of Leo LT were named, those, who served MG Baltic were named, as were those, who served earlier oligarchic groups, the same Dujotekana you mentioned.

I named everyone, who could be named without harming intelligence investigations, pre-trial investigations, who served the interests of narrow groups’ oligarchic interests. No doubt, with the current composition of the committee, there is a risk of intelligence materials, which D. Gaižauskas and R. Karbauskis wanted, being used for persecuting political opponents.

I am left with the impression that in certain regard, there’s no way back for you. Will you seek to remain in politics?

Why? There’s always a way back. Nowadays, you can’t kill off a person, some MG Baltic favouring judge will charge me a sum of money. Well then, I will have to pay for it. On the other hand, I have delved rather well into European practice in such cases.

If we are to look beyond Lithuania, the European Court of Human rights has granted tools for countries to combat oligarchic groups. I have no doubt that this process will be won.

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