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Alstom probe approaching statute of limitations in Lithuania

  • 2019-01-04
  • BNS/TBT Staff

VILNIUS – The ongoing investigation in Lithuania into large-scale corruption involving French engineering giant Alstom is nearing the statute of limitations, with some of the episodes in the case having already reached it and others might do so shortly.

"Some offences in this pre-trial investigation have already reached the statute of limitations. And currently the pre-trial investigation continues into alleged offences liability for which has not reached the statute of limitations yet," Renata Endruzyte, spokeswoman for Lithuania's Special Investigation Service, told BNS Lithuania on Friday.

Lithuania's law enforcement said on Friday they are continuing their investigation into international corruption in the energy sector, with suspicions only brought against Rymantas Juozaitis, former CEO of Lietuvos Energija (Lithuanian Energy) in the so-called Alstom case.

The 10-year statute of limitations on some of the offences has already been reached or is set to be reached next year as the alleged bribery incidents allegedly took place in 2004-2010. Officials note, however, that if a person who has committed a crime commits another crime during the same period, the statute of limitations might be extended.

Lithuania's law enforcement issued their statement on the probe after a UK court sentenced three former Alstom employees several weeks ago, accused of bribing Lithuanian officials.

LITHUANIAN PROBE FOLLOWS UK INFORMATION

Lithuania's SIS says it’s taking necessary investigative action in the United Kingdom. "We are also waiting for decisions on several European investigation orders asking for documents which are very important for the ongoing pre-trial investigation," the SIS said in the statement.

The SIS launched its investigation into large-scale corruption in 2015 following receipt of information from British counterparts. The probe centers around public procurement tenders in the 2004-2009 by then state-run companies Lietuvos Elektrine and Lietuvos Energija, which allegedly involved high-value bribes.

The public procurement tenders were related to the construction of Lietuvos Elektrine's Unit Nine in Elektrenai and the upgrading of the Kaunas Hydroelectric Power Plant. High-ranking officials and politicians could have been bribed then to win the tenders and secure unobstructed implementation of the projects.

"Evidence collected during the pre-trial investigation allows us to believe that offences were allegedly carried out by Lietuvos Energija, representatives of Lietuvos Elektrine, high-ranking official of the Ministry of Economy, as well as employees and representatives of the Alstom group," the SIS's Friday statement reads.

The investigation service says the probe in Lithuania has been carried out alongside the British Serious Fraud Office's investigation into the bribing of Lithuanian official by Alstom representatives.

THREE ALSTOM EMPLOYEES CONVICTED FOR BRIBES IN LITHUANIA

In late December, A British court sentenced three former employees of Alstom and its Swedish unit for bribing Lithuanian officials.

The SFO said Nicholas Reynolds, former Global Sales Director for Alstom Power Ltd’s Boiler Retrofits unit, HHJ Beddoe, received 4 years and 6 months imprisonment for his part in a 2009 conspiracy to bribe officials in Lithuania’s Elektrenai power station and senior Lithuanian politicians, paying around 5 million euros, in order to win two contracts worth 240 million euros.

Reynolds’ sentencing followed the conviction and sentencing of Alstom Power Ltd, its former Business Development Manager John Venskus and former Regional Sales Director at Alstom Power Sweden AB Goran Wikstrom for their part in the conspiracy.

Venskus was sentenced to 3 years and 6 months imprisonment, and Wikstrom was sentenced to 2 years and 7 months imprisonment.

Alstom Power Ltd was ordered to pay a total of £18,038,000 in fines, including compensation to the Lithuanian government of £10,963,000, after it admitted corruption charges.

LITHUANIAN OFFICIALS COULD HAVE RECEIVED 5 MILLION EUROS

Lithuania's then Economy Minister Viktor Uspaskich and his deputy Anicetas Ignotas, Lietuvos Energija's former CEO Rymantas Juozaitis and the Elektrenai power plant's former CEO Pranas Noreika, as well as four other high-ranking energy officials, could have received almost 5 million euros in bribes from Alstom, 15min.lt reported earlier.

The bribes were allegedly paid to win two contracts, worth 240 million euros, for upgrading the Elektrenai power station, according to the completed investigation by Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO) that was obtained by the news website.

The case file, which is available to 15min, includes well-known names and specific amounts, as well as accounts and the names of intermediaries. SFO found out that at least nine people in Lithuania had received bribes.   

For example, Uspaskich, Ignotas, Juozaitis and Noreika allegedly received 2.75 million euros in bribes. Another 2.33 million euros in bribes were allegedly paid, via intermediaries, to Viktoras Mekas, the Elektrenai plant's former first deputy director, Jurgis Sapalas, its former chief engineer, Algimantas Jasinskas, its former project manager, and Jonas Gaidys, its former chief technical officer. 

Juozaitis called the information he's been named as one of the suspected bribe recipients by the British investigation "a lie".

"As far as I know, I'm not mentioned anywhere there. This is the only thing I can say," he told the news website.

Three intermediaries were recorded in the case, but the money came to Lithuania via two of them, including Vilmetrona, which allegedly played a key role in paying bribes to Lithuanian officials.   

Alstom Power transferred 1.855 million euros and its Swedish unit transferred 475,000 pounds to the Vilnius-registry company, whose sole shareholder and CEO was Evaldas Cibulskas, between 2005 and February 2010. 

According to SFO, alleged bribe money were transferred to Pranciskus Jurgutis' Kruonio Hidroakumuliacines Elektrines Statyba, Alstom Power's sub-contractor in the Elektrenai plant upgrading project, with 9.54 million litas in total transferred to the company.

British investigators say Uspaskich demanded 15 million euros during a meeting with Jurgutis and a now-convicted Alstom representative for the group's projects in Lithuania to go ahead. It is said that the then economy minister could have been paid 1.53 million euros.