Vilniaus Bankas under fire

  • 2004-04-22
  • Baltic News Service
VILNIUS - A dispute between the Finance Ministry and Vilniaus Bankas, the country's biggest commercial bank, may go to the arbitration court in Stockholm, the daily Respublika reported on April 16.

Vilniaus Bankas, which is owned by Sweden's SEB, is suspected of having violated the terms of an agreement signed by SEB and the Finance Ministry. Under the agreement, Vilniaus Bankas committed itself to creating 300 new jobs and thus obtained a five-year exemption from paying corporate profit taxes, which has saved the bank about 103 million litas (30 million euros).
Now the bank stands to lose a large part of the money if a court determines that the bank violated the agreement.
The Finance Ministry has appointed a working group to begin negotiations between the two parties. If no agreement is reached, the dispute will be referred to arbitration, the paper wrote.
According to Respublika, Vilniaus Bankas insists that it has met all of its commitments, though the Finance Ministry claims otherwise.
Last week's meeting between Julius Niedvaras, president of Vilniaus Bankas, and Finance Minister Dalia Grybauskaite failed to bring the parties' positions closer, the paper reported.
The bank, in its turn, had to create 300 new jobs and maintain them until the expiration of the agreement. The bank had to have a staff of 1,753 at the end of 2003. However, it employed only 1,360 people.
Deputy Finance Minister Vitas Vasiliauskas said that now it would be too strong to say that the ministry is accusing Vilniaus Bankas of breaching the agreement.
"In fact, nothing is clear yet," said Vasiliauskas. "Today we have a fact, or perhaps a suspicion that the staff was smaller at certain points, or that the provision of the agreement regarding the creation of new jobs might have been violated. That is why we have asked the bank for an explanation."