Lithua­nia's in­tel­li­gence: Lib­eral party was the Tro­jan Horse of busi­ness gi­ant MG Baltic

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Lithua­nia has per­haps never seen this cal­i­bre po­lit­i­cal scan­dals like these ones grab­bing the me­dia head­lines in re­cent weeks. First, the em­bat­tled for­mer Lib­er­als leader, Eligi­jus Ma­si­ulis, who is fight­ing in­flu­ence ped­dling and cor­rup­tion charges, made his per­sonal cor­re­spon­dence with Pres­i­dent Dalia Gry­bauskaitė pub­lic. The head-of­s­tate goes as Tulip in the bar­rage of emails with Ma­si­ulis and the ex­change re­veals her heavy, some say, med­dle­some en­gage­ment in the Lithua­nian leg­is­la­tion.

In the wake, Lithua­nia‘s State Se­cu­rity De­part­ment (VSD) stepped in with a shock­ing state­ment: it ap­pears that Lithua­nia‘s Lib­eral Move­ment, the coun­try‘s only lib­eral party once chaired by Ma­si­ulis, has been a long-term project of the MG Baltic busi­ness group.

Fall­out from the scan­dal can be over­whelm­ing: there are calls al­ready – so far, mostly in the in­ter­net, so be pre­cise – to dis­man­tle the party as il­le­git­i­mate. What­ever hap­pens in the next weeks to come, the Lib­eral party is ev­i­dently in big trou­ble.

Mean­while, Eu­geni­jus Gentvi­las, leader of Lithua­nia’s Lib­eral Move­ment, cat­e­gor­i­cally re­jects claims made the State Se­cu­rity De­part­ment’s re­port that the Lib­eral Move­ment was a long-term project of the MG Baltic busi­ness group.

«I cat­e­gor­i­cally deny that the party was founded and that sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple joined it against their will but un­der some­body’s in­flu­ence, by some­body’s or­der. The SSD should not say things like that,» Gentvi­las told jour­nal­ists at the par­lia­ment this week.

«They say our party was founded in 2006 as an MG Baltic project. I was liv­ing in Brus­sels at the time and had no links and joined this party, con­vinced that it would be an al­ter­na­tive to (for­mer Vil­nius Mayor) Ar­turas Zuokas’ party. And now they say that those two thou­sand peo­ple who founded the Lib­eral Move­ment, are an MG Baltic project,» he added.

In a re­port to the par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee on Na­tional Se­cu­rity and De­fence, which was on Mon­day, May 7, de­clas­si­fied as part of a probe into busi­ness groups’ in­flu­ence on po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses, the SSD claims that «fol­low­ing the found­ing of the party, fully con­trolled by MG Baltic ex­ec­u­tives, the con­cern be­came the most in­flu­en­tial busi­ness (in­flu­ence) group in Lithua­nia in less than ten years».

The re­port also states that as MG Baltic sought to elim­i­nate key com­peti­tors in the con­struc­tion busi­ness in the Lithua­nian cap­i­tal, «a po­lit­i­cal» sce­nario was cho­sen to di­vide party led by Ma­si­ulis and es­tab­lish a party which is in fact con­trolled by MG. The Lib­eral Party was founded in 2006 when part of mem­bers of the Lib­eral and Cen­tre Union, led by Zuokas, left the party or were sacked due to dis­putes with the party leader. In­cum­bent MEP Pe­tras Auštre­vi­ius was elected chair­man of the new party. What ap­pears from the pub­li­cized cor­re­spon­dence, ob­tained by in­tel­li­gence, MG Baltic has also ex­erted to in­flu­ence the So­cial Demo­cratic Party, at­tempt­ing to bring Min­dau­gas Sinke­vičius, the then Econ­omy min­is­ter, Min­dau­gas Sinke­vičius, to the chair post in the party.

To give their favourite an edge over his fierce ri­val , Gin­tau­tas Paluckas, who was even­tu­ally se­lected as the SD Party leader, MG Baltic al­legedly tar­nished his rep­u­ta­tion by con­coct­ing a story about his brother, Danas Paluckas, be­ing con­victed for a mis­de­meanour in Italy many years ago. With the news out, Danas Paluckas, who did not de­clare the sup­posed crime in his dec­la­ra­tion of in­ter­ests when seek­ing a seat of coun­cil­man of the Palanga Mu­nic­i­pal­ity in 2015, was stripped of the man­date, yet kept deny­ing any wrong­do­ing through­out. «I un­der­stand that the po­lit­i­cal life is mer­ci­less and the po­lit­i­cal neme­sis re­sort to all the pos­si­ble means to harm you, but the rev­e­la­tion that a ma­jor busi­ness hold­ing sought to dam­age the elec­tion prospects of my bother THAT way is mind-bog­gling,» Danas Paluckas told BNN. Ac­cord­ing to VSD, MG Baltic has ze­roed in on 10 Lithua­nia min­istries and 4 law en­force­ment in­sti­tu­tions as its tar­get of in­flu­ence.

VSD claims that Lithua­nia’s for­mer min­is­ters, Con­ser­va­tive An­drius Kvs­du­bil­ius and So­cial Demo­crat Al­gir­das Butke­vičius, were aware of the at­tempts of MG Baltic, how­ever did not take ac­tion.

Both men are deny­ing it, how­ever, the Seimas is de­ter­mined to launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the cir­cum­stances.

In a blow to Lithua­nian jour­nal­ism, the State Se­cu­rity De­part­ment also claims in the re­port that jour­nal­ist To­mas Dap­kus, who worked for a TV chan­nel owned by MG Baltics, served ex­clu­sively the in­ter­ests the top ex­ec­u­tives of MG Baltic and his ac­tiv­i­ties bear signs of black­mail. Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment, which was signed by VSD Direc­tor Dar­ius Jau­niškis, Dap­kus be­came «an in­ter­me­di­ary rep­re­sent­ing the in­ter­ests of MG man­agers who not only es­tab­lishes con­tacts with politi­cians and state of­fi­cials, but also col­lects in­for­ma­tion use­ful for him­self and for the group, later us­ing it as a tool of ma­nip­u­la­tion and/or black­mail».

The doc­u­ment de­scribes var­i­ous po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses and sit­u­a­tions in Vil­nius’ lo­cal au­thor­ity, Li­etu­vos Geležinke­liai, the State Tax In­spec­torate, the Com­pe­ti­tion Coun­cil, and other au­thor­i­ties and or­ga­ni­za­tions.

The in­tel­li­gence says that in many cases it was done via an un­named per­son with whom Dap­kus has very close ties. Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cials, MG Baltic and Dap­kus were in­ter­ested in an e-health project and took ac­tive ef­forts to con­trol the sit­u­a­tion in the Cen­tre of Reg­is­ters.

Dap­kus’ plans in the IT sec­tor are al­legedly linked to an un­named per­son ac­tive in that busi­ness area. That per­son main­tains close con­tacts not only with the jour­nal­ist, but also with the lat­ter’s «in­ter­me­di­a­tion part­ner», a for­mer KGB of­fi­cer. The in­tel­li­gence say that these per­sons were linked by com­mon com­mer­cial in­ter­ests. Ac­cord­ing to the doc­u­ment, ac­tiv­i­ties by MG Baltic’s peo­ple pose a threat to na­tional se­cu­rity in that they can desta­bi­lize the demo­cratic po­lit­i­cal sys­tem.

In de­fence, MG Baltic says that the re­port of in­tel­li­gence on the MG Baltic busi­ness group’s in­flu­ence on po­lit­i­cal pro­cesses in Lithua­nia is aimed at mak­ing «di­rect in­flu­ence» on judges who are about to hear a po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion case in­volv­ing MG Baltic. «Re­spond­ing to the State Se­cu­rity De­part­ment’s pub­lished in­for­ma­tion, MG Baltic states that such ac­tion taken at a time when the hear­ing of the crim­i­nal case be­gins amounts to di­rect in­flu­ence on the judges who will hear the case, there­fore, the de­fen­dants can no longer ex­pect a fair and im­par­tial trial,» the state­ment reads.

MG Baltic Pres­i­dent Dar­ius Mockus, quoted in the state­ment, says the SSD re­port to law­mak­ers is «a mix­ture of opin­ions and as­sump­tions».

Tadas Marčiukaitis, spokesman for MG Baltic, said the con­cern would take le­gal ac­tion to de­fend its rights.

The hear­ing of a po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion case in­volv­ing the Labour Party and the Lib­eral Move­ment, MG Baltic as well as ex­ist­ing and for­mer Labour Party and Lib­eral Move­ment lead­ers and mem­bers should start later this year.

Al­though only the name of MG Baltic has been brought up so far, Lithua­nian PM Saulius Skver­nelis hinted that «more than one com­pany» is men­tioned in the State Se­cu­rity De­part­ment’s (VSD) re­port.

«I be­lieve that the peo­ple of Lithua­nia do have the right to know every­thing that has hap­pened in Lithua­nia over the last cou­ple of decades. This is why that in­ves­ti­ga­tion was started at the com­mit­tee,» Skver­nelis said on LRT Ra­dio.

The prime min­is­ter added that he re­ceives in­for­ma­tion from VSD, but knows noth­ing about the com­mit­tee’s find­ings, adding that he is in favour of de­clas­si­fy­ing these find­ings.

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