VILNIUS - Last week a scandal-exhausted Lithuania was overtaken by yet another controversy as ethics overseers who determine the fate of public servants and politicians found themselves at the epicenter of a major investigation. Special investigators carried out a pretrial probe involving the head of the Central Service Ethics Commission, Algirdas Meskau-skas, and his alleged involvement in document forgery, swindling and other breaches of office.
President Valdas Adamkus said if the allegations proved to be grounded, this would be "the scandal of all scandals," his spokeswoman Rita Grumadaite said.
Last week members of the commission were forced to "hang out" in the corridors of prosecutors and special investigation services. Meantime, their premises were searched, documents seized and safety deposit boxes opened.
Law enforcement institutions are particularly interested in the controversial installment of a new electronic database worth thousands of litas. The database was reportedly installed by a company closely linked to the head of the commission.
After the controversy hit the headlines, Meskauskas went to Parliament on Dec. 6 to explain the situation.
Three days later, the head of the ethics commission notified Parliamentary Chairman Arturas Paulauskas, pledging to hand in his resignation. Meskauskas' decision to step down became clear immediately after Paulauskas mentioned Parliament's intention to bring a discussion of the ethic watchdog's performance to the floor.
"Meskauskas' reputation was damaged, the information had become public, explained himself in the Seimas, and, we have to admit, not exactly in the most rational way. He disclosed such circumstances that do no honor to him as the ethics guard," said Paulauskas.
Meskauskas will leave the post on Dec. 31.
Many MPs said Meskauskas' public explanation pulled him in deeper 's some of his sentences were too sensationalist.
Meskauskas openly admitted that only was he was aware of the ongoing secret investigation, but that he also paid a visit to the head of the special services to ask him to cease the investigative operation.
"I told what I knew about such operational actions, which are being conducted against me, and I asked him as a colleague 's we both have served in the system of state defense, worked at re-establishing it, so I thought I had a right to such a request 's I asked him not to ruin my career," Meskauskas told the MPs.
The head of the commission claimed he wasn't guilty and referred to the story as a political act.
MPs considered the statements as attempts to unlawfully influence law enforcement institutions.
"This is absolutely unacceptable. One can't make influence on law enforcement institutions. Everybody knows such simple truths, and especially Meskauskas as chairman of the ethics commission, because these are harsh violations of ethics," said MP Viktoras Muntianas.
"This shocked me 's such explanations by Meskauskas raised more doubts, and I personally find the situation more complicated that it was before his speech in the Seimas," said MP Algirdas Monkevicius.
"It's hard to answer how we should be able to work, when trust and moral authority of such an institution is lost. The situation paralyzes the work of the commission and this way it loses the trust of the people," he said.