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Tuesday 19.03.2019 | Name days: Jāzeps
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Lithuanian law enforcers bust high-profile judges and attorneys

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

 

Linas Jegelevičius for the BNN

In an unprecedented move yet, Lithuania’s law enforcers busted this week what it may be an organised, yet impenetrable until now ring of the country’s some A-tier judges and lawyers. Some of the big names have deliberated high-profile legal cases implicating some of Lithuania’s most heinous criminal gangs.

Lithuania’s Prosecutor General’s Office reported on Wednesday morning that, in total, 26 persons, including eight judges and five attorneys, were handcuffed and indicted on charges of corruption, influence peddling and bribery. The prosecutors allege that the suspects accepted around 400 thousand euros in bribes which were used to get a favourable judiciary decision.

The prosecutors hint that the detained judges and lawyers knew each other well and that not only the professional activity linked them but also the shared leisure interests, like hunting, for example. As a rule, they would hide their clandestine liaisons from others, even from their closest colleagues and family members. According to the officials, the incriminated judges would especially shun their younger colleagues at courts – namely young-generation judges sanctioned the arrests. The suspects, the prosecutors say, were wiretapped for «quite some time» before their apprehension.

Although the detained judges boasted very good reputation, however their detentions did not come as a surprise to some of their fellow judges.

For example, Kažys, a judge of the Lithuanian Court of Appeal, and who is said to be one or the most affluent judges in Lithuania, has deliberated many high-profile legal cases involving notorious contrabandists and criminal ring member. Notably, to astonishment of many of his colleagues and the public, he has freed some of them when no one expected it. Specifically, the judge released from jail notorious drug dealers from the so-called Lapinai criminal ring. He did so after his counterparts from lower-tier courts ruled the criminals posed real threat to the public.

So far, heads of Lithuania’s law enforcement agencies are very reluctant to give any details on the ongoing pre-trial investigations.

Grilled by a host of the popular TV programme Dienos tema on Wednesday night, neither Žydrūnas Bartkus, head of the Special Investigation Service, STT, nor Evaldas Pašilis, the Prosecutor General, or Algimantas Valantinas, a prominent judge and chairman of Lithuania’s Council of Courts, said anything concrete about the scandal that seems to devastate the country’s judiciary system, as many other possible revelations on the judges’ and on other, yet unindicted judges’ malfeasances are likely yet to follow.

«We however need to respect presumption of innocence,» cautioned Pašilis.

According to Bartkus, the STT top man, around 100 home and office searches were carried out and detention of the judges and the lawyers required unparalleled secrecy and a smooth synchronisation of the law enforcers’ efforts. He accentuated STT carried out «the largest operation in the service’s history», with over 100 officers in it involved. Bartkus said bribes were paid for decisions in administrative, civil and criminal cases, also including the high-profile case of the Vijūnėlė Manor, behind which stands Ričardas Malinauskas, mayor of Druskininkai, a resort in southern Lithuania.

Valantinas regretted the blow to the country’s judiciary system and pondered it can have long-term consequences for it.

«It is bad that some of legal cases reach court only after three or four years since the inception of a legal process…I hope this time we will see a different story,» Valantinas said.

The TV programme guests did not speculate if the detained persons acted in a coordinated criminal ring.

Among the detained persons were three judges of the Lithuanian Court of Appeal, Viktoras Kažys, Konstantinas Gurinas and Valdimaras Bavėjanas, Supreme Court judge Egidijus Laužikas, Vilnius Regional Court judge Henrichas Jaglinskis, Vilnius Regional Administrative Court judge Arūnas Kaminskas, Gintaras Čekanauskas, a judge from the Regional Administrative Court of Regions, Chamber of Kaunas, and also Vilnius City District Court judge Robertas Rainys. All of them are suspected of various corruption crimes, including bribery, influence peddling and abuse of office.

The detained lawyers include Drąsutis Zagreckas, Romualdas Mikliušas, Giedrė Cimbolienė, Aivaras Surblys and Marius Navickas.

On Thursday morning, most of them were brought handcuffed to Vilnius courts and arraigned.

Among the persons brought to one of Vilnius courts was Vilius Karalius, a notorious large-scale contrabandist who is suspected of influence peddling on judges.

Lithuania media wrote that he shunned bars in the past and speculate that his close relative who happens to be judge has helped him to evade jail.

Loreta Brazdienė, president of the Vilnius Regional Court, was quoted by Lithuanian media as saying that an investigation into corruption involving judges has shaken the whole judicial system.

In her words, the information about the investigation involving eight judges «raised very serious questions» about judicial morality.

«The priority of our judicial community is intolerance towards corruption and the degradation of the judge’s name, so the information we received from the media has really shaken the whole judicial system,» she said on Wednesday.

«Not only the letter of the law, but also judicial morality is important for ensuring justice, and today we are facing very serious questions. We’ll see, we are monitoring the situation but, nevertheless, the key priority will be intolerance towards corruption,» she said.

She noted that Vilnius Regional Court judge Henrichas Jaglinskis, one of the suspects in the case, is one of the most experienced judges hearing civil cases, and she has never seen anything suspicious about his behaviour.

Weighing in on the detentions, Lithuania’s Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis said that the prosecution launched against eight judges shows that the times of untouchables in Lithuania have ended.

In his words, the investigation is also sending a signal that there are serious problems in the Lithuanian judicial system and they need immediate solution.

«The times of untouchables have ended. Everyone needs to learn this lesson, including politicians, civil servants, judges and heads of medical establishments. We are seeking zero tolerance for corruption in the state, and persons who have covered up with strong party roofs and used the provided authority for their own benefit and not for the benefit of the state need to face justice,» the prime minister posted on Facebook.

«I would like to thank the services for their courage. I know that the Prosecutor general’s Office and the Special Investigation Service will do their job but the fact judges from the Lithuanian Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, Vilnius Regional Administrative Court and other courts are suspected of corruption, influence peddling and abuse of office shows the scale of the problems we are facing,»  prime minister said.

Although some of the judges are suspected of having accepted five-digit bribes, their public asset declarations are modest, showing the value of possessed property under 100 thousand euros. Some of the judges have pointed out in their asset declarations that they owe money to banks and even natural persons.


Leave a reply

  1. Zerry says:

    Next will be Latvia

  2. Mike says:

    It is horrible to see this happening in a EU member state, not somewhere in Russia

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