The Seimas National Security and Defence Committee (NSGK) investigation on politicians and business links has reached its conclusion, but doubts are being voiced, whether the material presented by law enforcement to the investigators will help reach the promised cleansing.
A week ago, President Dalia Grybauskaitė described the Seimas NSGK investigation work on illegal influence on politicians, political processes and state institutions as being selective and beneficial to the current ruling majority.
Its leader – Lithuanian Farmer and Greens Union (LVŽS) chairman Ramūnas Karbauskis meanwhile spoke on how the NSGK conclusions will be intermediary and the investigation should proceed further.
So far, most discussions in the public sphere revolve around the MG Baltic group, which has been accused in a political corruption case. This business structure also appears in the State Security Department (VSD) report presented to the NSGK, in which based on over a decade of monitoring, information is presented on MG Baltic relations with politicians, primarily with the Liberal Movement, which is also under suspicion in the same court case, however mentions appear of other currently operating political organisations, officials, law enforcement officers and others.
“A sort of “poetry” can be seen in the reports. For example, statements that MG Baltic created the Liberal Movement, completely controlled it are hard to justify. I believe that the VSD prepared a “tale”, putting together material without any particular review and sent it to the NSGK. The committee had to take that material alongside information from other institutions, investigate it and, in the best case, present recommendations, what should be noted.
But now they intend to declassify this material. As such, what they received from the VSD they will read through and release directly to the public. I do not believe that this was the purpose of these reports,” Vilnius Univerisrty Institute of International Relations and Political Science (VU TSPMI) lecturer dr. Kęstutis Girnius commented on the situation.
Delfi reminds what spurred on the NSGK investigation and what data was presented about it.
Reports flooded in on the beginning of court proceedings
The NSGK received authorisation from the Seimas for an investigation of individuals, business subjects and other interest groups’ potential illegal influence on state institutions in decision making and potential illegal influence on political process on October 19 last year.
The proposal, signed by 46 MPs including opposition Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats (TS-LKD) chairman Gabrielius Landsbergis, was born in summer last year when the NSGK was reviewing the then social democrat Mindaugas Bastys‘ links to representatives of the Russian energy company Rosatom.
Already then, NSGK chairman V. Bakas spoke how the inquiry regarding M. Bastys uncovered “only the tip of the iceberg” of political corruption. In autumn 2017 law enforcement presented suspicions toward the Liberal Movement and Labour Party, which were entangled in the so-called MG Baltic group political corruption case and the NSGK initiated a wide-ranging investigation of potential suspect business influences on politicians.
This work proceeded with little further commentary until in mid-March this year; the MG Baltic political corruption case was presented before the courts. It was a 108 tome case, where just the accusatory act is comprised of 450 pages and three legal entities have been charged – the Liberal Movement, Labour Party and MG Baltic, as well as five private individuals. The pre-trial investigation featured questioning of 150 individuals, including more than 50 current of former MPs, several former minister and MEPs.
Soon after, Lietuvos Rytas released correspondence between accused former Liberal Movement leader Eligijus Masiulis and President Dalia Grybauskaitė. The emails, whose authenticity the president cannot confirm, revealed rather a rather unsavoury back-stage of politics.
The majority even spoke of an inquiry into the head of state’s actions, however the so-called correspondence scandal was soon eclipsed by the early May classified VSD report for the Seimas NSGK and heads of state leaking.
The main accents of the VSD report:
Under its long-term strategy, the MG Baltic business group sought influence in at least ten of the 14 ministries: Environment, Finance, Culture, Healthcare, Transport and Communications, Education and Science, Justice, Economy, Interior, as well as Agriculture.
Influence on these institutions was to be made through the Liberal Movement, founded in 2006 and fully under control by the group.
Observed efforts to influence the Lithuanian Social Democrat Party (LSDP):
In 2005 efforts to influence the Social Democrats to join the Seimas investigative commission on the then Vilnius Mayor Artūras Zuokas, who was linked to Rubicon Group;
In 2006 efforts to ensure European Union and budgetary support via then Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas for a tennis complex in Vilnius;
From 2007 contacts were observed with the then LSDP member Algirdas Paleckis and pursuit of him taking the post of Vilnius Mayor;
In 2017 efforts to influence the LSDP chairman elections to prevent Gintautas Paluckas‘ victory;
The group’s efforts to influence the National Resurrection Party and its leader Arūnas Valinskas, which entered government in 2008.
The group’s efforts to influence the TS-LKD and its then leader Andrius Kubilius.
MG Baltic acted through its subordinate television’s journalist Tomas Dapkus.
MG Baltic sought to establish a network of close connections among highly ranked court judges.
MG Baltic sought to establish a network of close connections among highly ranked prosecutors.
MG Baltic and Vilniaus Prekyba relations:
In 2006-2007 observed competition for energy projects in the creation of Leo LT;
Cooperation from 2015.
According to Vytautas Magnus University (VDU) professor Algis Krupavičius‘ comment for Delfi, following the leaking of the VSD report to the NSGK, several evaluation scenarios for the committee’s investigation are possible.
“The first would be that all is said and done and unlikely that we will find out anything new; the second is that perhaps something new is presented, but certainly not as much as is expected. The first scenario that the conclusions could shock the whole political system is left in the past. Expectations are lowered,” the political scientist said.
However, according to him, the likelihood that the NSGK investigation’s continuation could be more tangible than that of prior similar commissions is high.
“They have waded well into that swamp, thus it would be hard to claim nothing will happen. Furthermore, we must remember that the MG Baltic case is already at court, thus certain decisions will have to be made,” he explained.
Comments match investigative material
In fact, a part of the information, which is currently found in the VSD report appeared earlier in public as part of the corruption case pre-trial investigation material. It suggests that the NSGK is wielding certain information, which is part of the MG Baltic and related parties and politicians’ court proceedings.
In October 2016, news surfaced on new suspicions from the investigators of the MG Baltic case toward one of the main “heroes” of the story – the then group VP Raimondas Kurlianskis. The Prosecutor General’s Office received data that this businessman sought to influence politicians to actively provide aid in the discussions on candidates to the post of prosecutor general.
At the time, the Seimas refused two candidates presented by the president – primarily after critical information from T. Dapkus, Kaunas district court chairman Nerijus Meilutis was denied the post, later the Kaišiadorys region county court chairwoman Edita Dambrauskienė was refused as well. Only the third candidate – Evaldas Pašilis was approved.
With Lietuvos Rytas’ publication of E. Masiulis and President Grybauskaitė’s correspondence, the impression that the appointment of the prosecutor general could have been eyed by MG Baltic, only grows stronger. According to the excerpts provided, D. Grybauskaitė wrote to E. Masiulis that LNK journalist T. Dapkus is “talking nonsense” about E. Pašilis, thus the politician was suggested to “convey greetings” to Darius Mockus, the head of MG Baltic, which owns the TV channel, to “withdraw his hound.”
In October 2016, information appeared in the media that having decided to withdraw due to health issues, the then Vilnius District chief prosecutor Ramutis Jancevičius decided in one day to accept a proposal to become one of the risk management heads of MG Baltic.
At the time, asked by journalists, whether prior to his employment he knew the MG Baltic leadership, R. Jancevičius assured that the only person he knew was group president D. Mockus.
“There were absolutely no formal relations. There were only baseless accusations against him in a case 15 or 17 years ago that he contributed to the death of Arūnas Grigas [businessman, who died in 2000, a long-time friend of D. Mockus], but it later turned out that Grigas died a natural death from a stroke. These are nuances. There were no further links,” the former prosecutor claimed.
The VSD information leaked a few weeks ago specifies that R. Jancevičius closely cooperated with MG Baltic, aided the group in pursuing its goals and discussed the Prosecutor General’s Office leadership. The former prosecutor told BNS that the VSD claims on his cooperation with the group are absurd and assured he only met D. Mockus thrice prior to working in MG Baltic.
Information about groups’ relations on file
In late May 2016 intriguing information surfaced in the media: BNS, based on its sources, reported that law enforcement officials performed raids at the workplace and home of the Lithuanian branch head of Bertona Holdings Limited, Diana Dominienė for the MG Baltic corruption case, with Vilniaus Prekyba chief stockholder Nerijus Numavičius being the chief stockholder of Bertona Holdings.
In January 2017 another piece of information linked to this surfaced: it was announced that Finance Minister Vilius Šapoka fired the then State Tax Inspectorate (VMI) head Dainoras Bradauskas on it being found that the head of VMI provided MG Baltic VP R. Kurlianskis information on Vilniaus Prekyba tax reviews, this information being beneficial to both business groups.
Only a few weeks ago, with the VSD report surfacing, it turned out that Vilniaus Prekyba was also under law enforcement scrutiny. Firstly – due to its conflict with MG Baltic in sharing influence in the country’s energy sector, creating Leo LT and later, approximately in 2015, due to renewed relations, seeking to cooperate regarding potential tax inspections.
According to Delfi, in 2015, with the scandal over Vilniaus Prekyba potentially failing to pay taxes, the group sought to ensure support from MG Baltic. The latter’s representative R. Kurlianskis interacted with D. Bradauskas, also agreed with him that D. Dominienė would also be informed of the yearly tax analysis of Vilniaus Prekyba, but it would be done through him.
VSD information also revealed that with the Prosecutor General’s Office and Financial Crime Investigation Service (FNTT) beginning a pre-trial investigation on Vilniaus Prekyba and N. Numavičius’ actions, the group continued to make use of MG Baltic’s services.
Through the group’s news media outlets, negative information on former deputy prosecutor general Darius Raulušaitis was spread and Vilniaus Prekyba would remunerate by granting large discounts to the MG Baltic-owned company Mineraliniai Vandenys, which sold at Maxima [Part of Vilniaus Prekyba] supermarkets.
While it was announced in spring 2016 on the start of the MG Baltic investigation that an Anykščiai judge granted permission to wiretap R. Kurlianskis’ conversations and perform other intelligence actions in September 2015, it turns out now that the VSD performed such measures against involved companies and individuals for more than a decade.
K. Girnius tells Delfi that while definitely much VSD material reached the public recently, it is still unclear, how reliable it is.
“Say you are listening to a phone conversation of a dozen minutes and only the three most “savoury” sentences are cut out. Can you evaluate them based on how they are presented in the report or do you need to after all know the wider context? If there are talks about MG Baltic having such vast influence on law enforcement, news media and politicians, investigations should be held regarding not only E. Masiulis, R. Kurlianskis or just a few other figures. If this is all the material available for the accusations, then claiming that something is a threat to national interests is a dramatic expression,” he explained.
The scientist mused that the information presented currently could be manipulated.
“And I wonder how this will impact the elections, who will be accused based on these reports. I have no doubt that some will be told that supposedly they are in Darius Mockus’ pocket, even if the person is not being prosecuted, nor has been invited for more detailed questioning,” K. Girnius said.
A. Krupavičius also spoke of how the NSGK investigative material could become a tool for political competition. However, he doubts that prior observed processes could repeat, where political case proceedings would seemingly settle down between elections and would intensify in their run-up.
“The public and at least part of the establishment political figures want some sort of results. Primarily it is the LVŽS and its leader R. Karbauskis, who are interested in it, likely unwilling to wait for results in a few years. Another matter is that in the presidential campaign context the LVŽS candidate would find a tangible result more favourable than not,” the political scientist said.
He has no doubt that the surfaced information will continue to spark political chaos being “establishment” Lithuanian politics is at a nadir.
“There are no good ways out in the short term. It would appear that if we are talking about cleansing, the drawing of new vectors would primarily be linked to the presidential elections in public consciousness and the political arena. It is likely that the current situation opens the way and grants more opportunities for certain non-establishment candidates, who could appear,” A. Krupavičius explained.