Lawmakers target Zuokas after commission fingers him as mysterious 'subscriber'

  • 2005-12-07
  • By Milda Seputyte
VILNIUS - Despite having withstood criticism for involvement in numerous scandals and alleged ethical violations, Arturas Zuokas has just received one more blow.
After a two-month-long investigation, a parliamentary commission concluded that the mysterious "subscriber" involved in a large bribery scandal could in fact be none other than the Vilnius mayor.

On Dec. 1, the commission investigating corruption allegations in the Vilnius municipality stated in its findings that the so-called subscriber who received large sums from Rubicon Group was more than likely to be Zuokas, leader of the Liberal Centrist Union.

Following the commission's conclusion, Parliamentary Chair-man Arturas Paulauskas said the Vilnius mayor had no choice but to resign.

"Upon hearing such an assessment, every politician should understand that it is time for him to step down," Paulauskas told journalists the following day.

Zuokas called the commission's decision "revenge" for his criticism of some members of the ruling coalition.

"I know who I am 's I am Arturas Zuokas. And all those interpretations or those speculations are just public relations activities of Parliament," the mayor said at a briefing Dec 1.

When asked if he intended to step down, Zuokas replied laconically: "I am right."

On Dec. 6 a majority of parliamentarians voted to include a discussion on the allegations in their plenary hearing Dec. 8.

The scandal broke out in May when LNK TV, the television station owned by MG Baltic, reported on the "unreported bookkeeping entries" of the Rubicon Group that were actually regular payments made to an unknown individual. The mysterious person was paid 2 million litas (579,000 euros) in bribes over a two-year period for promoting favorable decisions in the Vilnius municipality.

LNK later implied that the person, nicknamed the "subscriber," could be the mayor.

The report was based on "leaked information" from the Special Intelligence Service.

President Valdas Adamkus, who is known to be fond of the Liberal Democrats, was particularly disturbed by the scandal and asked Zuokas to resign. In a nationally televised address at the end of May, the president said he had lost confidence in Zuokas, even though Adamkus didn't use the mayor's name.

During the final vote in the parliamentary ad hoc commission, 10 out of 14 members voted in favor of the recommendation that Arturas Zuokas should not continue serving in his position.

The ad hoc commission said it conducted the investigation independently of the court system, judges, prosecutors, and other officials related to the pretrial investigation.

The Prosecutor General's Office has not yet finished its probe into this case.

Zuokas believes that "the majority of commission members are eager to take revenge on me and were unable to produce just and moral conclusions."

"Its findings did not surprise me either... I do not have anything in common with these allegations or suspicions, and therefore I am absolutely calm," the Vilnius mayor said shortly after the ad hoc commission announced its findings.

The possibility to begin an interpellation process against the Vilnius mayor is being promoted by some City Council members. Conservative Kestutis Masiulis, who had previously resigned from the position of deputy mayor in protest against Zuokas, announced the news.

"The Homeland Union (Conservatives) has been united for several months about the interpellation," he said. "Everything's clear to us. Others lingered a bit because they were not sure what conclusion the parliamentary commission would provide. So we were also put on hold when taking into account the opinion of other parties."

An interpellation procedure requires the approval of at least one-third of the City Council.