Swarovski couple seized at passport control

  • 2001-08-16
  • Rokas M. Tracevskis
VILNIUS - On Aug. 7 at 6:30 p.m., Gernot Langes-Swarovski, head of Austria's Swarovski company, and his wife Eva arrived at Vilnius airport in a private Falcon 900 jet from Innsbruck, Austria, only for Eva to be stopped at passport control. Her passport had expired in May.

The couple was told to leave immediately, and their plane took off for Austria at 8:30 that same evening.

Langes-Swarovski owns the greater part of the Swarovski empire, which produces exclusive jewelry, accessories and clothing. Landes-Swarovski's ancestor Daniel Swarovski established this successful business in Austria toward the end of the 19th century.

The couple intended to attend the opening of their Crystal Creations company, which has started producing jewelry in Vilnius. This small enterprise is located on Maironio Street on the periphery of the Old Town.

Eva and Gernot Langes-Swarovski are Austrian citizens. Austrian Ambassador Florian Haug said he understood the reason why Mrs. Langes-Swarovski was not allowed to enter the country. But he also expressed his regret for the incident.

"This visit was very important for Lithuania. I would say that it was a gift,"Haug told the large-circulation Lietuvos Rytas daily. This patronizing remark provoked anger in many of the paper's readers, who wrote hundreds of comments at the daily's Internet site.

"Everybody should be equal to the law,"wrote one incensed reader. "Any state would not allow entry to a person with no valid passport. It does not mean that somebody can neglect the law if this person is the rich boss of a powerful company."

Another reader pointed out that British actor Sir Anthony Hopkins was once deported from the United States because his working visa had expired.

Vaclovas Zabarauskas, head of the State Border Protection Headquarters, said that the media exaggerated the incident. "We often refuse entry to foreigners with no valid passports. Look at the Internet; people support our decision. We are a state of law. We don't care if somebody is rich or not,"Zabarauskas told The Baltic Times.

At the same time he emphasized that the Langes-Swarovski couple would have been allowed entry into the country if they had called from the airport to the Austrian embassy or to a Lithuanian official.

The individuals called would have had to guarantee that the couple had no intention of staying in Lithuania permanently.