VILNIUS - The Vilnius City Court ruled on Nov. 22 that Yury Borisov, a Russian citizen and Kaunas-based businessman, had threatened former President Rolandas Paksas with blackmail and fined him 10,000 litas (2,900 euros).
The guilty verdict came despite a plea of innocence from both Borisov and Paksas, who testified in August.
The state based its case against Borisov, who had been Paksas' largest campaign contributor, on wiretapped telephone conversations in which Borisov threatened to reveal damaging information about Paksas unless the latter gave him a post in government.
Borisov was also accused of blackmailing the president through the latter's advisers, Remigijus Acas and Algirdas Draksas.
The court ruled Borisov guilty of having employed psychological constraint against the former president in his threats to reveal allegedly controversial material about Paksas.
The state, represented by prosecutor general Mindaugas Duda, had asked the court to level the harshest pecuniary damage - or 12,500 litas - against the accused. After the ruling, Duda said it would be necessary to examine all the motives behind the verdict.
"We have to see how the judge reasoned the fine for this particular amount. If the motives are reasonable enough, then I will be able to say that the ruling satisfies me," Duda said.
According to the case material, while working in Paksas' election campaign in 2002, Borisov was able to gather compromising information - specifically, discrepancies in candidate Paksas' financial statements and campaign accounting.
In return for a promise to quash the information, Borisov demanded Lithuanian citizenship and a medal.
The subsequent scandal, which broke at the end of October 2003, eventually led to Paksas' impeachment in April, the first such case in European history. The Constitutional Court stripped Borisov of his citizenship, granted by Paksas, in December 2003.
In his last statement in court, Borisov said that he had never intended to threaten Paksas but sincerely believed in him and was aiming to help the president.
Though Paksas also denied being blackmailed, his testimony in court contradicted his address to the nation on March 25 during his presidency.
"Over the past few days, Yury Borisov made it plain that allegedly controversial material might be implemented against me if I do not assign him to the position of public adviser," Paksas had read in a statement broadcast on national television.
Still, on March 31, six days later, Paksas denied that Borisov had ever blackmailed him.
"I have never uttered a single word about blackmail. I've never said it, I am not saying it now, and I am not intending to say it because this wouldn't be true," Paksas had said to the radio station Ziniu radijas.
However, according to Duda, the impeached president's words in court were not sincere because he was not interested in revealing the truth. He also added that, in this case, "the criminal law defends Rolandas Paksas not as natural person but as the head of the state, the president of the republic."
Borisov, for his part, said he would appeal.
"I am discontent with the ruling, and I am certainly going to appeal," he told the press after the ruling was promulgated.
Borisov, who is CEO of AviaBaltika, a helicopter-repair company, said he would pass every judicial level in Lithuania and then submit a plea to the European Court of Human Rights if necessary.
The final ruling in the presidential blackmail case will determine whether Borisov will have the right of residency in Lithuania. If the Vilnius court ruling is upheld in higher judicial institutions, the millionaire businessman is most likely to be sent off from the country.
Previously the migration department asked a Vilnius district court for permission to deport the Russian citizen. The court, however, decided to wait for the other court verdicts before determining its own.