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Lithuania’s blood plasma corruption scandal extends to Latvia

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Baltic news, News from Latvia, BNN.LV, BNN-NEWS.COM, BNN-NEWS.RU

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

The former head of Lithuania‘s National Blood Centre, suspected of corruption and involvement in unlicenced activity, received more bad news this week from Latvia, where investigators of the Lithuanian Special Investigation Service (STT) had questioned the Latvian Health minister, Anda Čakša.

Former head of Lithuania‘s National Blood Centre Joana Bikulčienė is suspected of corruption influence peddling and acting in a group of accomplices in organising and assisting large-scale commercial and professional activities without a license.

The questioning of Čakša has been about the role of the Latvian National Blood Centre in what might be a larger cross-border scheme in mishandling blood plasma in both countries.

In early April, Vilnius City District Court satisfied Lithuanian prosecutors’ requests and removed Bikulčienė from her position for three months. She was detained for two weeks and then put under house arrest and banned to contact certain people. Bikulčienė is suspected of abusing her powers as the LNKC chief official, specifically, aiming to help a private company to monopolise the collection of blood plasma and supply of blood constituents in Lithuania.

Speaking to BNN, Renata Endružytė, spokeswoman of the STT, confirmed that the agency, continuing the pre-trial investigation in the National Blood Centre, is investigating alleged bribery of foreign officials.

«In order to gather information relevant to the probe, investigative measures were taken in Latvia last week,» she said.

A press release on the STT website claims that the pre-trial investigation data provide a «reasonable suspicion“ that Bikulčienė with the representatives of a private company, which is supposedly run by her former classmate and which specialises in collection of medicinal raw materials, production, preparation and distribution of pharmaceutical products, acted in an organised group, aiming to monopolise blood plasma collection not only in Lithuania, but also in Latvia.

The private company has been named as Solis Tribus, which director ir Rūta Stankevičienė, Bikulčienė‘s classmate.

«Participating in the activities of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions, we responsibly pay attention to detect corruption offences not only in Lithuania, but also investigate foreign bribery cases. So corruption does not have any borders and corrupted individuals or legal persons cannot expect impunity both in Lithuania and abroad», STT Director Žydrūnas Bartkus is quoted in the statement.

Under this investigation, three persons are currently suspected of having committed a criminal offence. The former director of the National Blood Centre is suspected of abuse of power, trade in influence, and acting in an organised group engaging in large-scale commercial and professional activities without a license. Meanwhile, the other two are suspected of aiding and abetting abuse of power, trade in influence, engaging commercial and professional activities without a license.

Latvian Health Minister Anda Čakša confirmed to LETA on June 20 that she had been questioned by the Lithuanian officials as part of the investigation into possible corruption at the Lithuanian National Blood Centre.

The minister acknowledged that representatives of both Latvian and Lithuanian law enforcement agencies had participated in the interrogation.

Čakša said she was probably questioned because the Latvian State Blood Donor Centre was under her direct supervision but she could not say who had been the head of the blood donor centre at the time that was in the focus of the investigation, according the report.

She said the Lithuanian authorities had been supplied with all the documents they had requested but no searches had been carried out in Latvia. She said there had been no suspicious activities in blood plasma collection in Latvia, and the Latvian State Blood Donor Centre had made serious efforts to ensure transparency of all processes.

The minister also emphasised that Latvia’s situation was different from that in Lithuania.

According to her, Latvia is holding centralised tenders for services related to blood plasma collection to ensure competitive prices and to help as many people as possible with the financing available for the purpose.

The Latvian Corruption Prevention Bureau (KNAB) said it was not investigating an entanglement of the minister in the case, but was only assisting the Lithuanian Special Investigation Service.

The KNAB did not open so far any criminal proceedings over possible corruption at the Health Ministry and the Latvian State Blood Donor Centre.

Approached by BNN, Bikulčienė accentuated that it is not possible to «more monopolise» the Latvian blood market as the local legislation allows collection of blood plasma only in the state-run Blood Centre.

«In order for other players to enter into the marker, the legislation needs to be changed in Latvian Parliament,» she underscored.

«The investigators supervising the investigation probably do not know the laws, which explains the fact they do what those who ordered the investigation tell them. The reality is quite different,» Bikulčienė told BNN.

She has headed the LNKC since 2013 and was awarded the nomination of «Year‘s CEO» in 2016. The competition was organised by the health weekly «Lietuvos sveikata.»

Her predecessor had also to resign caught up in a scandal. Mindful of the fact, Bikulčienė said in an interview following the scandal that no politician ever tackled the issues the Centre.

«All the politicians only seek to benefit from the scandals in the Centre…I sincerely feel pity for the to-be head of the Centre,» she accentuated.


Leave a reply

  1. dude says:

    I do not believe Chaksha knows whats she’s doing. Her position is to cover old schemes and benefit from this cover-up position.

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