VILNIUS - Another mystery emerged from Economy Minister Viktor Uspaskich's biography last week when it was reported that, although the Labor Party leader holds a diploma, his name could not be found among the student listings.
Although the minister claims having received his bachelor's degree from a recognized academy in Moscow in 1993, officials from the educational institution could not find Uspaskich's name in the student listings, which are based on graduation year, reported journalists from the Ekstra weekly.
What's more, Ekstra writers were also told that the academy did not have any remote study classes with a specialization in economics that year.
In his autobiography of Seimas' (Lithuanian parliament's) on-line page, Uspaskich wrote that he was studying economics part time while working in Russia, and earned his bachelor's degree in 1993.
Officials shrugged off the biographical hole. "It is a matter of the politicians conscience what he writes in his biography. We don't check the facts, we only try to make sure that anti-constitutional things don't slip through," Zenonas Vaigauskas, head of the central electoral committee, was quoted as saying.
The economy minister, who is currently being investigated by two parliamentary committees for conflict of interest allegations, defended his reputation.
"This is another bluff," Uspaskich told Ekstra. "I did indeed study. And where did you get this forgery from? From the academy you say? Then perhaps you didn't know who you should ask this information from. You have to go directly to the rector. Do you want me to write you a note that you could take to Moscow, to the rector, and he will give you an answer? No problem."
Partners of the ruling coalition are urging the economy minister to settle doubts over his higher education. After the meeting of the ruling coalition's political council, where Uspaskich tried to explain the situation to his political partners, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas said that Uspaskich should provide the ethics commission with the diploma's original from the Moscow Plekhanov Academy of Economics.
The economy minister claimed that the scandal was caused by "a misprint."
"There is only one explanation 's they misprinted the name, entered the wrong letter or two in his diploma. He has the corrected diploma bearing his real name," Brazauskas told journalists.
The prime minister added that, if this scandal did boil down to a misprint, "no further deliberation would be given to this matter."
Uspaskich promised to show his diploma to the press, but the following day he left for a forum in St. Petersburg. The minister's press secretary, Zydrunas Damauskas, was unable to say when the original would be available.
In his biography, Uspaskich also claims to have finished studies under an economic master's curriculum at Kaunas University of Technology in 1999 and to be an alumnus of this university since 2000, although he could not have obtained a master's degree at the KUT without first possessing a higher education diploma.
Rector of KUT Bansevicius found a copy of Uspaskich's bachelor diploma in the university archives. He said that the document did not raise suspicion, as it was similar to other documents issued those days. However, the rector also acknowledged that today there are a lot of cases of diploma forgery. If the economy minister's higher education diploma is found to be a forgey, his KUT master's diploma will also become void.
Parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas said that if the accusations had grounds, legal institutions should start investigating, since diploma forgery entails criminal prosecution. "If the facts are true, these are serious accusations. I think legal institutions must examine them," Paulauskas was quoted as saying.