Investigators probe Lithuania’s biggest retail group for alleged illegal activity

Nerijus Numavičius
DELFI / Mindaugas Ažušilis

A spokeswoman for the Prosecutor General’s Office, Elena Martinonienė, confirmed to BNS that the probe, opened at the end of summer 2015, was ongoing. However, she refused to make any comments as to whether or not the investigation was related to Numavičius.

Vilniaus Prekyba is the holding company that owns Lithuania’s largest retail chain operator Maxima Group, pharmacy chain Euroapotheca, and construction materials chain operator Ermitažas. The chains have outlets across the Baltic States, Poland and Bulgaria.

Martinonienė pointed out that the probe did not mean that the companies, which are part of Vilniaus Prekyba group, or their shareholders were indeed involved in illegal activities.

“Yes, it’s true – prosecutors have opened a probe into alleged large-scale fraud and legalization of assets derived from criminal activity. Suspicions have not yet been brought against anyone and the fact of the investigation is no judgement as prosecutors are trying to find out whether or not there were any criminal activities of any kind,” she said.

Last summer, a probe of potential tax evasion schemes of Vilniaus Prekyba was also opened by the Lithuanian State Tax Inspectorate (VMI), which cooperates with tax authorities of Latvia and Estonia as it tries to establish the content of potentially illegal tax schemes.

Mindaugas Marcinkevičius, a minority shareholder of Vilniaus Prekyba, stated last summer that following his withdrawal from the management of the group, tens of holding companies started to spring up, aimed at separating operating companies from Vilniaus Prekyba’s shareholders, and that “a highly aggressive” tax planning system was applied in the group.

Vilniaus Prekyba has dismissed any allegations of tax evasion and claimed that Marcinkevičius wants to pull out of the group “aggressively” under advantageous terms.

Vilniaus Prekyba owns supermarket and pharmacy chains in the Baltic countries, Poland, Bulgaria and Ukraine via subsidiaries Maxima Grupė, Euroapotheca and Ermitažas. Numavičius is the largest single shareholder in the group.

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