Uspaskich detained in Moscow

  • 2006-09-20
  • Staff and wire reports
VILNIUS - Just days after the Prosecutor General's Office issued a European warrant for the arrest of former Labor Party leader Viktor Uspaskich, Russian officers detained him in Moscow on Sept. 15, only to release him later. Uspaskich immediately applied for political asylum in Russia, and according to reports the paperwork is currently being processed.

"I have asked for legal assistance for political reasons - the political persecution by Lithuanian law-enforcement institutions," said Uspaskich.
The Labor Party founder allegedly submitted fraudulent party income data to the State Tax Inspectorate and Central Electoral Committee.

Uspaskich told journalists that he was not officially "detained," but only questioned.
"I boarded a car and was taken to the Prosecutor's Office, where I was questioned and briefed on the suspicions against me," he said. "Once I had answered their questions, the Russian officials decided to apply to their Lithuanian colleagues for additional information and let me go."
Yet Uspaskich's release has strengthened suspicions that the Lithuanian also holds Russian citizenship, a question that Lithuania's Migration Department is currently working to ascertain.

Lithuanian National Television reported on Sept. 15 that if Uspaskich was not released on bail, but because he applied for political asylum, this would serve as evidence that he holds dual citizenship.
Lithuanian Police Commissioner General Vytautas Grigaravicius told the Baltic News Service that it was not clear whether Uspaskich was released on bail or for other reasons.
Opposition Conservative leader Andrius Kubilius said that Russia's actions should be followed closely, as they could reveal the Labor Party's "true founders."

"If it turns out that officials of the Kremlin and the Federal Security Bureau hinder Uspaskich's handover to Lithuania, then the Labor Party is clearly a Kremlin creation," Kubilius said on Sept. 18.
Under Russian law, authorities cannot hand Uspaskich over to a foreign country if he has applied for political asylum, is a Russian citizen or has already been convicted for his actions.

Uspaskich was detained by a special Russian police unit in the early hours of Sept. 15 following a tip-off from Lithuanian authorities that the suspect may resist detention and try to escape. Uspaskich was taken to a police station in Moscow.
Without an official report on the detention, the Lithuanian Prosecutor General's Office could not send an extradition request to Russia. The document has already been prepared and translated into Russian.

Uspaskich was born in the Lithuanian city of Kedainiai. The 47-year-old businessman lost his posts as economy minister and parliamentarian in the wake of last spring's Labor Party scandal. For the past few months, Uspaskich had been hiding in Russia from Lithuanian law enforcement agencies, which suspected him of non-transparent party accounting.
Uspaskich, a millionaire real estate investor and food industry magnate, recently claimed that he never had Russian citizenship, which would by constitutional law deprive him of his Lithuanian citizenship.