VILNIUS - The investigation into Labor Party leader Viktor Uspaskich's suspect diploma received a major boost this week after Russia's Prosecutor General granted permission to two Vilnius district prosecutors to look into the case.
The Vilnius district prosecutor's office on Sept. 8 received a letter signed by the Russian prosecutor general, saying that two Lithuanian prosecutors could carry out an investigation over Uspaskich's higher education diploma in Moscow, the Lietuvos Zinios daily reported.
Uspaskich claims he received a university-level degree from Moscow's Plekhanov Academy, a prestigious math and economics institute, but he has been unable to provide sufficient evidence.
Earlier Lithuanian officials received an official letter from the academy saying that Uspaskich's name was not on the list of students that studied there in 1990-1993 or graduated from the academy in 1993.
The Vilnius district prosecutor's office is conducting a pretrial investigation, launched by the State Security Department, to ascertain whether Uspaskich, who lost his post as economy minister, did not present false data when asking to grant him a permit to work with classified information.
Acting Prosecutor General Vytautas Barkauskas has denied allegations that the Russian prosecutors' permission to investigate Uspaskich's case was granted in exchange for a decision to extradite Igor Babenko, former manager of the Stavropol branch of the Menatep St. Petersburg bank (see story page 1), which is part of the financial industrial group Yukos, Russia's beleaguered oil company.