Helicopter investigation proceeds slowly

  • 2004-09-09
  • Baltic News Service
VILNIUS - The Avia Baltika helicopter company has flooded the Prosecutor General's Office and courts with complaints over three Bangladeshi helicopters detained by Lithuanian authorities, the Lietuvos Zinios daily reported on Sept. 6.

The company's lawyer said the yet incomplete investigation into the possible smuggling of helicopters has caused extensive damages to Avia Baltika and the government of Bangladesh, which has a limited number of helicopters in its possession and uses them for the elimination of consequences of extreme situations.
Last November, customs officials detained three Mi-17 helicopters that were sent to the Kaunas-based company Avia Baltika for repairs. The officials detained the choppers due to variance of serial numbers presented by manufacturers and Bangladeshi air forces and those indicated in the contract with Avia Baltika.
The Customs Criminal Service launched a probe into the matter, and the government of Bangladesh made efforts to clear up the situation.
The Bangladeshi government confirmed that the helicopters indicated in the contract were the same ones sent to Lithuania.
In April the Lithuanian Embassy in Moscow received a letter from the Bangladeshi Embassy that once again explained the reasons behind the differing serial numbers and restated the demand to return the helicopters to Bangladesh without delay.
According to the daily, Avia Baltika head Yury Borisov, who was stripped of his citizenship by the Constitutional Court in December last year, and his lawyer forecast that the Bangladeshi government would soon demand tens of millions of dollars in compensation for the unlawfully detained helicopters, which have not been repaired.
Dainius Simonavicius, the prosecutor in charge of the case, believes that the threats by the Bangladeshi government are unrealistic.
"Of course, it is their right to take measures, but the contract has been concluded with Avia Baltika, and they should work with it. The investigation underway is lawful," said the prosecutor.
According to Simonavicius, the question on the differing serial numbers had been solved within a short period of time, but an investigation still continues into the lawfulness of the entry of helicopters into the country.
"Avia Baltika had a permit to take in civilian helicopters, but a probe showed that the Bangladeshi helicopters are military. We are now working to find out if this was done on purpose," said the prosecutor. In his words, the investigation should be completed later this month.
Simonavicius refused to forecast if the case would go to court or be discontinued.