Investigators probe scandalous property deals, Parliament to set up commission

  • 2006-03-15
  • Staff and wire reports
VILNIUS - Lithuania's law enforcement agencies have begun investigating the purchase of homes in an elite Vilnius suburb by two former presidential advisors, while Parliament has started the process of forming an ad hoc commission to look into the deals. The heads of the law enforcement agencies 's the Prosecutor General's Office, the National Audit Office and the Special Investigation Service 's have also increased the scope of their probe to asses a law regulating the public management of land plots.

On March 9, President Valdas Adamkus met with Special Investigation Service Director Povilas Malakauskas, Deputy Auditor General Viktoras Svedas and State Security Department Director Arvydas Pocius to discuss the affair, which resulted in the abrupt resignation of two of Adamkus' closest advisers on March 6.
During the meeting, the possibility of illegal construction by the joint stock company administering Turniskes, the prestigious Vilnius suburb, was discussed, as well as the wider problem of managing state property, according to Rita Grumadaite, an adviser to Adamkus.

Svedas said that the National Audit Office had already started an audit over territorial planning, and a second one over the use of land plots assigned to state institutions in Turniskes.
The Turniskes neighborhood is home to residences of the president, Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas and other high-ranking officials, as well as many diplomats.
Malakauskas said the Special Investigation Service would conduct an investigation to ascertain whether the government-owned public utility company that manages Turniskes sold the property lawfully. The utility is a joint-stock company.
For their part, the property managers defended the deals. Government Chancellor Antanas Zenonas Kaminskas and Valdas Rackys, who heads the public utility, claimed that laws were not violated when selling cottages, which had a hotel status, to individuals.

On March 10, a majority of MPs paved the way for forming a commission of 11 members to look into the property deals. The exact members should be determined this week.
Adamkus originally asked Parliament to establish the commission.
The group will attempt to ascertain the circumstances under which the presidential advisers, Edminas Bagdonas and Rytis Muraska, as well as other individuals, have purchased real estate in Turniskes. It will also try to determine whether the state has sustained pecuniary damage.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Brazauskas has suggested organizing an auction to sell the infamous residential houses in Turniskes.
"Kaminskas [and I] will order the formation of groups to solve the situation and eliminate the suburb 's only leaving the ones who have a right to live there. We have not found any other way out than renovating the houses, renting them, receiving income and maintaining the entire territory," said Brazauskas.
"No one has proposed a solution, just criticism," he added.
In the prime minister's opinion, the Turniskes residential buildings should be privatized to ensure the protection of officials living in the neighborhood.