In Panevezys, police are arresting individuals suspected in connection with the kidnapping and murder of the three men, all of whom resided in Mazeikiai, northeast Lithuania.
The three disappeared on July 6, 2000, while en route home from Vilnius. Kiesus' car was found the next day in a parking lot near a Vilnius supermarket. He and his driver had traveled to Vilnius to pick up his son Valdas, who was studying in London, at the airport. DNA testing is currently being made on the badly decomposed bodies. Results are expected in two to three weeks.
"I can give no information because it could harm the investigation," said Danute Daunoraviciute, a police spokeswoman. Kestutis Betingis, deputy prosecutor general, said that Panevezys resident Algimantas Vertelka was among those arrested in the investigation but refused to discuss further.
Vertelka was arrested a year ago in connection with the murders, but police failed to find evidence against him at the time, and he was released.
Vertelka is suspected to have ties to the Panevezys-based "Tulpiniai" organized crime gang. The Lietuvos Rytas daily reported that police and prosecutors had rounded up a number of people alleged to belong to the gang for suspected murder, possession of weapons and other charges on Nov. 23.
The daily reported that one of those suspects might have tipped police off to the location of the bodies.
Two more bodies - Giedrius Liubartas, 26, and Egidijus Bucys, 27 - were found near the other victims. Both were members of the Tulpiniai gang. Lietuvos Rytas writes that Sigitas Raiselis, who became infamous when he accused Lithuania of illegally arresting him and complained to the European Court of Human Rights several years ago, was also arrested in suspicion of the Kiesus murder. Raiselis won the case in Strasbourg and was awarded a 12,000 litas ($3,000) compensation from the Lithuanian state.
According to media speculation, the Tulpiniai gang had business relations with Mazeikiu Nafta when it was headed by Kiesus. Several years ago, the prosecutor general started an investigation into Mazeikiu Nafta's former activities, which reached no conclusions. The media's version of events is that gang members feared Kiesus would discuss their activities with the prosecutors.
Kiesus was head of Mazeikiu Nafta until the U.S. oil company Williams International privatized it in 1999. Later Kiesus had his own oil trading business.