VILNIUS - The construction of Lithuania's new national stadium, which will cost the state about 370 million litas (107 million euros), has been the center of controversy in recent days, with officials distancing themselves from the project and press claims of money-laundering.
Vilnius Deputy Mayor Arunas Staras resigned from his post on Jan. 24 citing as one of the main reasons for his resignation the lack of transparency in national stadium construction project, the Alfa news portal reported.
Meanwhile, Lietuvos Rytas claimed on Jan. 21 that a new group of experts the city government decided to hire for the project is going to help with ongoing "money laundering." The experts are going to cost the municipality an additional 1,054,000 euros, even though the work they're to be hired for was already performed last year, the newspaper reported.
Other institutions are shying away from association with the project.
On Jan. 24, the council of the public institution "Vilnius 's European Capital of Culture 2009" (VEKS) crossed the stadium off its list of possible event venues.
"We decided to strike out [the stadium] from the infrastructure objects, so VEKS projects do not serve as a cover and would not help in search for money from the governmental investment program or any place else," Arturas Zuokas, the head of VEKS, was quoted by the Delfi Internet portal as saying.
The stadium is scheduled to be completed in 2009, which would theoretically make it ready for both VEKS events and "Mark the Millennium of Lithuania" (LT 1000) events.
Zuokas, who is head of the Liberal and Central Union and a former Vilnius mayor, has been one of the largest critics of the current city government's stadium project, which he considers "unbelievably expensive."
Zuokas' fellow party member, Culture Minister Jonas Jucas, said the national stadium was needed, but there is no need to press for prompt construction, as it could only be used for LT 1000 at best.
The head of Homeland Union (Lithuanian conservative party) Andrius Kubilius requested that the financing of the national stadium project be determined by Parliament, but the government rejected the idea in its Jan. 23 sitting.
This matter is within the government's competence, Prime Minister Gediminas Kirkilas said. "I don't think we must render different investment projects, which are numerous, to Parliament,' Kirkilas remarked.
The Government plans to allocate 200 million litas to national stadium project from the Privatization Fund in 2008.