LT Labour Party MP Gapsys denies bribery accusations following STT search

  • 2016-05-31

The Lithuanian Labour Party's First Vice-Chairman Vytautas Gapsys has denied corruption accusations following a search of his home and office at parliament by the Lithuanian Special Investigation Service (STT) on Monday.

The STT said it suspected MG Baltic Vice-President Raimondas Kurlianskis of influencing members of the ruling Labour Party, via Gapsys, to work for the benefit of the concern in exchange for bribes. Kurlianskis is currently in detention.

In the framework of the probe, searches were conducted in Gapsys' home and office, as well as a few companies of MG Baltic and homes of their top executives.

Asked by journalists whether he had ever accepted or given a bribe, Gapsys replied: "No."

The politician said he could "not really imagine” what he could be charged with.

"The search lasted a few hours; there were quite a few books and documents in my office, they took materials for one bill related to a law that has been adopted a while ago and is already in effect. I will not comment on the bill," said Gapsys.

"From my home, they took a few documents in connection to media plans, I think they took four pages from my home, they didn't take any cash; to tell you the truth, we counted some 120 euros in cash and a few hundred (US) dollars from one of my business trips to the US. They also took my phone but allowed me … a duplicate of the SIM card to be able to remain in touch. They took my computer and pledged to give it back within a week," said the MP.

The STT said on Monday it had evidence to prove that Kurlianskis influenced members of the ruling Labour Party to work for the benefit of the concern in exchange for very large bribes.

Gapsys said he has been in contact with Kurklianskis on technical matters only.

After being questioned at the STT on Monday Gapsys stated that bribery allegations involving him and Kurlianskis "are not about cash." When asked about the amount of the alleged bribe, the lawmaker said, "I can't disclose it at the moment, but this isn't hundreds of thousands (of euros)."

Prosecutors decided to question Gapsys as a special witness — a status which is granted amid evidence about a possible crime before suspicions can be brought against the individual. Gapsys enjoys legal immunity as an MP.

Gapsys said he would decide on his future in parliament after meeting with the Labour Party's leadership.

Valentinas Mazuronis, the leader of Lithuania's ruling Labour Party, says he wants to hear Gapsys’ position in connection to the corruption claims against him.

"First of all, I would like an opinion, and explanation or something like that from Vytautas Gapsys to see the situation. Or I would like to know a bit more about what is going on," Mazuronis told BNS Lithuania on Monday.

"If there are indeed suspicions about him receiving a bribe, the answer is clearly no," he said when asked whether a corruption suspect can continue as an MP and remain in the party. "But I have no information to confirm this yet, I can only make presumptions."

Lithuania's Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius has stated confidence in the STT’s search procedure.

"The law enforcement are doing their job, I am certain that it will be done in a proper manner. They will establish what's going on. Regardless of whether the searches are conducted at our coalition partners' or the opposition — equal transparency standards apply to all," the prime minister, who heads the ruling Social Democrats, said on Monday.

Butkevicius expressed certitude that the current developments would "not keep the coalition partners from the important work we must complete before the end of the term."

The prime minister's comment was communicated to BNS by his spokeswoman Evelina Butkute Lazdauskiene.

Kurlianskis was detained on May 12 on suspicions of bribery, influence peddling, and unlawful possession of a state secret. Law enforcement bodies suspect that MG Baltic's vice-president gave a bribe of 106,000 euros to Eligijus Masiulis, who was then a member of the Seimas and leader of the Liberal Movement. Masiulis consequently gave up his MP mandate and resigned from the leadership.

Prosecutors are asking a Vilnius court to extend the arrest warrant for Kurlianskis.

"For two months," Judge Petras Karvelis of the Vilnius District Court said when asked for what period of time the extension was being sought.

The court considered the request from Prosecutor Justas Laucius of the Prosecutor General's Office behind closed doors on Monday.

Kurlianskis was arrested for 20 days under a warrant issued by the Vilnius Regional Court. The warrant expires on Tuesday, May 31.

MG Baltic is one of Lithuania's biggest manufacturing, trade, real estate, and media groups. Seventy-two companies controlled by the group posted 539 million euros in revenue for 2015 and employed a workforce of nearly 3,700 people.

Kurlianskis is chairman of the management board at the Laisvas ir Nepriklausomas Kanalas Group, the operator of several TV channels, and at Alfa Media, the operator of the news portal.