VILNIUS – Lithuanian prosecutors have reopened a pre-trial investigation, closed in 2022, into a suspicious Paysera financial transaction involving Sarunas Stepukonis, a former BaltCap Infrastructure Fund partner suspected of having embezzled millions of euros in another probe launched in 2023.
"The pre-trial investigation has been reopened by the decision (...) adopted yesterday," Justas Laucius, chief prosecutor at the Vilnius Regional Prosecutor's Office, told reporters on Friday.
The investigation is based on the Criminal Code's article on "laundering of property as proceeds from crime", he said.
According to Laucius, the Financial Crime Investigation Service (FCIS) in 2022 investigated a suspicious financial transaction in which 3.9 million euros were transferred to Stepukonis' account at Paysera, an electronic money institution. These funds were then frozen.
Stepukonis was questioned as a special witness as part of the probe. He testified and provided documents that the money in his account had been transferred from a Polish company as part of a share transfer transaction, according to the prosecutor.
Special witness status is granted when a person is questioned about their actions but there is insufficient reason to issue a notice of suspicion against the person.
After assessing the data and concluding that the transfer was legitimate, it was decided to discontinue the pre-trial investigation, the prosecutor said.
However, the probe was reopened after it was found that "the financial transactions under investigation in both pre-trial investigations involve the same companies and the same bank accounts, and that the periods of some of the money transfers investigated in both cases coincide, as do other circumstances relevant for the assessment of the legality of the actions and circumstances", the Prosecutor General's Office said in a press release on Friday.
Laucius says the law allows reopening an investigation if substantial circumstances are found to be "relevant to the fairness of the case and they were unknown at the time when the decision to terminate the pre-trial investigation was made".
Law enforcement authorities have not yet disclosed whether the Polish company in question was in any way linked to BaltCap or to Stepukonis himself.
Rolandas Kiskis, head of the FCIS, told journalists on Friday that his service has received seven reports from various agencies over the past seven years about suspicious financial transactions linked to Stepukonis. One of them, a report by Paysera in March 2022, led to the pre-trial investigation.
NO COMMENT ON STEPUKONIS' WHEREABOUTS
The decision to reopen the investigation into the 2022 money transfer comes as the European Public Prosecutor's Office is conducting another pre-trial investigation opened last year and Stepukonis is named as the suspect in the case of embezzlement of more than 27 million euros. He is suspected of having gambled this money away at casinos.
Kiskis said on Friday that this is "the service's top priority investigation at the moment", adding that the pre-trial investigation team has been set up and it involves officers from several FCIS units. More than ten officers are carrying out the investigation.
The ongoing pre-trial investigation is very extensive as hundreds of inquiries have been sent to institutions in Lithuania and abroad regarding various financial transactions, the FCIS chief said.
Kiskis did not specify whether officers now Stepukonis' whereabouts. An international search has been launched for him.
"Believe me, we won't comment. Not because we are avoiding these things, but it would simply be unprofessional," he said. "Commenting on what we are not sure of is unprofessional, untimely and will certainly undermine the success of the investigation."
He also refrained to comment on when Stepukonis left Lithuania.
Laucius said that only the European prosecutor in charge of the pre-trial investigation would provide information on when Stepukonis disappeared or where he might be at the moment.
"You will have to wait a couple of weeks for the answers," the prosecutor said.
According to the FCIS chief, officers are making every effort "to find him and can talk to him".
Asked whether Stepukonis could be in Ukraine, he replied: "We will neither confirm nor deny".
Kiskis also said that the public would be regularly informed about the course of the investigation, as agreed with the European prosecutors in charge of the investigation.