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Gangland murders in 'Twin Peaks' draw government's attention

  • 2000-11-23
  • Geoffrey Vasiliauskas
VILNIUS - The criminal activity in the Lithuanian city of Panevezius, being nicknamed "Lithuanian Chicago" and "Twin Peaks" by the country's media, came to the nation's attention two weeks ago with the seeming gangland murder of police inspector Sergejus Piskunovas and prosecutor Vida Kazlauskaite.

Although the Panevezys police force was strengthened by additional officers brought in from Vilnius, the murders were followed by the harassment of Panevezys district prosecutor's chief prosecutor for organized crime and corruption Ricardas Juozainis. He was accosted at about 10 p.m. on Nov. 15 as he was walking down the street by two drunken youth, and after being insulted and pushed around, drew his pistol and fired into the air. The youths fled on foot. Twenty-year-old Paulius Milcius, one of the two men, was arrested later. Juozainis told journalists that these guys, perhaps, did not like his cowboy-style leather hat.

A special parliamentary commission meeting for the first time the next day was called to investigate what for Panevezys amounts to a crime wave. It lacked one member, Conservative MP and former Panevezys mayor Vitas Matuzas, who was away attending the funeral of his son-in-law, Lithuanian soccer player Irmantas Stumbrys, found dead in his automobile in Panevezys and thought to be the victim of suicide. Police officials are investigating whether the gun found in Stumbrys' car was the same one used to fire the shots that struck down Kazlauskaite and Piskunovas. The pistol is currently undergoing examination in Germany by law enforcement agents there.

Chief of Lithuania's special investigative service Valentinas Junokas rejected rumors circulating in the press that the country's highest law-enforcement officials are involved in the criminal underworld and corruption.

Rimvydas Paleckis, a spokesman for the Lithuanian Government, when asked about the current situation in Panevezys, told The Baltic Times that Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas will travel to Panevezys this week and survey the situation himself to consult with representatives of the various law enforcement agencies - the special investigative service, the general prosecutor's, state security, the Lithuanian police department and others.

"They are to provide him with a detailed plan of action by next week and also brief him on the situation then. He wants to strengthen patrols in Panevezys and put pressure on the known gangs, the known leaders of gangs there, who are now unabashedly walking around as if they were the masters of the place, while taking into account their human rights. Traffic violations and disturbances of public order will be carefully watched. He wants to put pressure on them, so they don't feel especially comfortable with the current state of affairs. Unfortunately, we don't have any progress to report on the investigation of the two murders, or on the possible suicide," Paleckis said.

Gintautas Sireika, Panevezys district prosecutor for organized crime and corruption, was murdered on January 25, 1999. He was shot in his automobile as it sat parked in his driveway, as were Piskunovas and Kazlauskaite, shot as they sat in a car together parked next to Piskunovas' garden house.