Blackmail with a Moscow byline

  • 2006-08-02
  • Staff and wire reports
VILNIUS - Viktor Uspaskich, the former Labor Party chief who is wanted for questioning in Vilnius but has been in Russia for the past two-and-a-half months, is reportedly prepared to write a book that would expose the dark side of Lithuanian politics unless the criminal probe against his party is dropped.

Lietuvos Rytas, Lithuania's leading daily, reported this week that Uspaskich, who is in Moscow, has been holding meetings with election consultants and specialists to help him expose corruption among Lithuania's top politicians.
Sources told the paper that Uspaskich would give up his publishing plans if Lithuanian prosecutors terminated procedures against him and the Labor Party, which has already been suspected of questionable activities. Uspaskich believes that President Valdas Adamkus and his circle should assess the harmful effects the information contained in Uspaskich's book may have upon the state, the article said.

Lietuvos Rytas cited unnamed sources as saying that Uspaskich sees Lithuania's special services and the President's Office as the main initiators of the alleged plot against him and the Labor Party, which could be liquidated if the suspicions leveled against it are proven true. As early as last year the Labor Party was Lithuania's most popular.
Though the paper did not name its sources, the report coincides with the return to Vilnius of Loreta Grauziniene, the acting leader of the Labor Party who visited Uspaskich in Moscow last week.
As part of the effort to clear his name, Uspaskich allegedly met with controversial Russian politician Alexander Khinshtein, a move that analysts claim spells intrigue.

"If Uspaskich actually discussed the book about Lithuanian political life with Khinshtein, this means the project is not the revenge of a millionaire but an operation plotted by Russia's special services," an expert familiar with Moscow politics told Lietuvos Rytas.
Regardless of whom Uspaskich has consulted with, his hint about a kiss-and-tell book is being described by some Lithuanian politicians as a form of blackmail.

There is some speculation that any book by Uspaskich would take a shot at Parliamentary Speaker Viktoras Muntianas, the parliamentary chairman who recently left the Labor Party and formed his own splinter group in Parliament. Specifically, the book could suggest that Muntianas agreed to cooperate with law enforcement authorities in exchange for immunity, according to reports.
In response, Muntianas said the version had nothing to do with reality. Uspaskich's "fantasy is limitless," the speaker said.
Muntianas reiterated that he had never signed any financial documents belonging to the Labor Party. Still, he refused to say whether he was cooperating with Lithuanian law enforcement.

Uspaskich has earlier denied reports that he was hiding in Russia from Lithuanian prosecutors, saying that he was inciting Lithuanian authorities to launch a search. He said he wanted to include international organizations in the process amid his lack of trust in Lithuanian law-enforcement and fairness.
When asked to explain her trip to Moscow, Grauziniene said she wanted to relax after the Seimas [Lithuania's parliament] session. Of Uspaskich, she said, "We met, had a chat 's we had things to talk about. I congratulated him on his birthday."
Jonas Pinskus, elder of the Labor Party's parliamentary group, told the Baltic News Service on July 28 that he did not know anything and had not been informed either about Grauziniene's trip to Moscow or her meeting with Uspaskich.

Uspaskich, who founded the Labor Party in 2003, has not been in Lithuania since May. After prosecutors brought suspicions against the Labor Party in late June, he resigned as chairman of the party and left for Russia, ostensibly to visit relatives and recuperate. Uspaskich, a millionaire real estate investor who started out making pickles, was born in Russia.
Prosecutors have reportedly discovered massive breaches in the Labor Party's accounting, including unlawful payments not only to members of the party but also to MPs of other parties.

During their investigation, prosecutors have questioned several Laborites as suspects and have carried out searches of the party's main office and Uspaskich's house, during which computers have been seized. Grauziniene has also been questioned as a witness.
The Labor Party is suspected of submitting false data on incomes, profit and property in an effort to evade taxes, and fraudulent accounting.
A legal entity that has committed the above offenses may be imposed a fine, restriction of activities, or even termination of activities.

The Prosecutor General's Office said it saw no reason for calling an international arrest for Uspaskich. Prosecutors admitted having failed to reach Uspaskich who also ignored the summons to an interrogation.