At the end of July, Latvian Agriculture Minister Janis Duklavs from the Union of Greens and Farmers and head of the Food and Veterinary Service Maris Balodis had taken part in a dinner and hunt with Lithuanian Agriculture Minister Virginija Baltraitiene, head of Lithuania’s State Food and Veterinary Service Jonas Milius, who was accused of abuse of official power not too long ago, and the head of Biovela meat processing company Virginijus Kantauskas.
It happened on 27 July, one day before Lithuanian law enforcement authorities organized a search in Milius’ managed institution. In Lithuania this meeting received harsh criticism because of all the uncertainties caused by the business representative’s participation in the dinner event.
Duklavs told BNS agency that he did have lunch with Virginija Baltraitiene and Jonas Milius on the first day of his visit to Vilnius. However, he denied any involvement in the hunt. Baltraitiene, on the other hand, confirmed that her Latvian colleague had taken part in the lunch and hunt. She did add, however, that Duklavs had no weapon on him.
«Duklavs arrived; we met with him in Paneveza. There was an excursion, [he] was brought to see our aurochs nursery. We decided to have lunch in Paneveza,» – said the Lithuanian minister.
«Latvia’s minister had no gun with him. Neither did the head of the veterinary service. They arrived, sat in a tower for awhile and returned after an hour with nothing,» – added Baltaraitiene.
Duklavs remembers everything differently: «I’d been in Lithuania for two days. We had lunch with my Lithuanian colleague on the 27th. That’s all. Milius was there as well. That’s all,» – he said.
«What hunt? I don’t know anything about that. […] As for the dinner – I was there. Dinner was held in Vilnius,» – said Duklavs.
«As far as I know, my Lithuanian colleague does not shoot. I did take part in a hunt with the previous minister, but that was long ago,» – he added.
Baltaraitiene told BNS that she and her husband had taken part in a dinner and a hunt in Paneveza. This hunt was organized for the Latvian minister. Aside from the two ministers, the vent was attended by Milius, SRS manager Balodis, multiple representatives of those institutions and manager of Biovela Group Kantausks.
According to the minister, the dinner was coordinated by the ministry. The hunt, on the other hand, was organized by Milius. According to her, participants of the hunt, including her husband, paid for the hunt on their own.
The minister noted that she did not know why a business representative was among officials.
As noted by the head of the Lithuanian branch of Transparency International Sergei Muravyev, this matter raises questions in regards to a conflict of interest.
«Everything looks very bad from the side. It is bad that high-rank politicians and state officials seem uninterested about the origin of the money that was used to pay for the good time with business representatives and their own reputation. It should be crystal clear to everyone that high-rank officials should avoid conflicts of interest. In addition, regardless of who paid for the hunt, I want to ask if this event was even part of the official meeting to begin with,» – he told BNS.
Latvia’s Agriculture Ministry had reported Duklavs’ plans to go on a two-day visit to Lithuania to discuss ways of encouraging farmers to become involved in efforts to enhance the competitiveness of Baltic States.
Lithuania’s Agriculture Ministry reported that the 28 July meeting of the two officials addressed the problem of the African swine fever and cooperation opportunities in the dairy industry.
Baltaraitiene mentioned that the hunt was organized by Milius. He was the one who invited the head of Biovela Group to the Agriculture Minister’s organized meeting.
She later added that Kantauskas may have been invited by the Latvian ministers.
Duklavs denies doing that.
«I don’t know anyone with that name. I know of Biovela company, but we have no ties to it,» – said the minister.
Kantauskas has confirmed taking part in the dinner and hunt. He has also denied organizing the hunt. He refused to provide BNS any detailed information on this matter.
Milius’ managed institution is responsible for quality control of all food producing companies, including Biovela.