Lithuanian president: unacceptable that no one takes responsibility for BaltCap scandal

  • 2024-02-08
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda finds it "totally unacceptable" that no one is taking responsibility for the misappropriation and gambling away by Sarunas Stepukonis, a former partner at BaltCap Infrastructure Fund (BInF), of over 30 million euros in money of companies managed by the fund.

"Such an amount of money can simply be stolen, and it's totally unacceptable that no one takes responsibility for it now," he told journalists in Prienai on Thursday.

Nauseda said that a thorough investigation has to be conducted before changing any laws.

"What needs to be done now is not to rush into drafting law changes, but first to thoroughly investigate throughout the chain how this could have happened – after all, these sums of money were not taken from the safe and carried away," the president said.

It has to be to found out how the money "travelled through the financial institutions, why the Gaming Control Authority failed to see that, and how our laws work to make thefts of this scale possible", he said.  

"Only when such a comprehensive investigation is carried out will it be logical to propose appropriate measures to ensure that similar scandals and crimes do not recur," he added.

Some parliamentarians are calling for tightening regulations on gambling advertising or even banning it altogether. 

The call comes amid suspicions that Stepukonis has gambled away millions of euros of BInF--managed companies' money, and attempts by Olympic Casino Group Baltija to brush off responsibility.

The European Public Prosecutor's Office announced last week that Stepukonis, whose whereabouts are currently unknown, is suspected of having misappropriated at least 27 million euros. 

An international search for him has been launched.

Officials from the central Bank of Lithuania say that the Estonian supervisory authority is responsible for supervising BaltCap and its funds.  

The Lithuanian Financial Crime Investigation Service (FCIS) has said that it conducted a pre-trial investigation into a suspicious money transfer, linked to Stepukonis, through the electronic money institution Paysera back in 2022, but added that the probe was dropped after no signs of a criminal offense were found.

FCIS Director Rolandas Kiskis has promised to release all available information on Friday and, if necessary, apologize for any mistakes. 

Officials from the Gaming Control Authority (GCA) say that the watchdog will propose to incorporate into law its responsible gambling guidelines, which are currently only advisory for the gambling industry.