Week in Lithuania | former MP asks Supreme Court for acquittal; Lithuania reports 990 new COVID-19 cases

Last week, France’s Veolia ordered to pay Vilnius 83 million euros; ex-Lithuanian MP pleaded not guilty to sexual charges
Veolia ordered to pay Vilnius 83 million euros, Vilnius to pay Veolia 27 million euros
Vilnius has won an international arbitration case against the French group Veolia and its subsidiary Vilniaus Energija (Vilnius Energy) as an arbitral court has awarded the city more than 83 million euros worth of assets and funds, the Vilnius Municipality said on Friday, the1st of December. Meanwhile, the Vilnius authorities and Vilniaus Šilumos Tinklai (Vilnius Heat Networks, VST) will have to pay 26.9 million euros to the two companies. The final amount to be paid to Vilnius and VST is therefore 56.1 million euros. According to the municipality, the arbitral court ruled that Veolia and Vilniaus Energija had breached the terms of the lease agreement by misappropriating emission allowances, and also breached other contract provisions. The city and VST had sought 560 million euros in damages. The international tribunal found that the 15-year (2002-2017) lease agreement allowed Veolia and Vilniaus Energija to return the heat business to the city in a worse condition than when it was leased in 2002. In 2017, the then Vilnius authorities said that their predecessors, led by Mayor Arturas Zuokas, had made a mistake when they let in a private manager and failed to ensure its control. Zuokas, who was mayor of Vilnius in 2000-2007 and 2011-2015, has repeatedly dismissed the accusations.
Lithuania reports 990 new COVID-19 cases, no deaths on Friday
Lithuania recorded 990 new coronavirus infections and no deaths from COVID-19 over Thursday, the 30th of November, official statistics showed on Friday, the 1st of December. The 14-day primary infection rate has risen to 421 cases per 100 000 people, with the seven-day percentage of positive tests at 37.6 percent. The number of new coronavirus cases hit the peak in Lithuania in early February 2022 when more than 14 000 new infections were recorded daily. Around 1.19 million people in Lithuania have tested positive for COVID-19 at least once. COVID-19 incidence in Lithuania took an upward turn in mid-September.
Seventeen irregular migrants deterred on Lithuania’s border with Belarus
Lithuanian border guards turned away 17 migrants over Thursday, the 30th of November, attempting to cross into the country from Belarus illegally, the State Border Guard Service (SBGS) said on Friday, the 1st of December. More than 2 500 irregular migrants have been barred from entering Lithuania from Belarus at non-designated places so far this year. Lithuanian border guards have prevented a total of over 21 800 people from crossing in from Belarus since the 3rd of August, 2021, when they were given the right to turn away irregular migrants. The number includes repeated attempts by the same people to cross the border.
Šiaulių Bankas, Invalda INVL complete 41.8 million euro merger
Šiaulių Bankas and the Invalda INVL group of investment management and life insurance companies have completed the merger of their retail businesses. The end value of the deal stands at 41.8 million euros. Tomas Varenbergas, head of the Investment Management Service at Šiaulių Bankas, expects the merger to increase market competition and that the merger will give impetus to the further development of the retail banking business. As of the 1st of December, in addition to the financial services it already provides, the Šiaulių Bankas will manage second- and third-pillar pension and investment funds in Lithuania, as well as expand the life insurance business in the Baltic states, which will be taken over by the life insurance SB Draudimas.
Banks in Lithuania pay almost 102 million euros in solidarity levy
Eight Lithuanian commercial banks and credit unions have paid 101.6 million euros in solidarity levy to the state budget by Thursday afternoon, the State Tax Inspectorate said on Thursday, the 30th of November. Šiauliu Bankas will transfer more than 2.6 million euros in the second solidarity levy instalment. And Luminor already transferred 12.5 million euros at the beginning of the week. The other major banks are yet to announce the amounts they have paid. The Bank of Lithuania estimates that the banks’ solidarity levy for the third quarter of this year will exceed 100 million euros, and that the total contribution for this year could reach around 250 million euros.
Ex-Lithuanian MP pleads not guilty to sexual charges
Ex-Lithuanian MP Kristijonas Bartoševičius accused of sexual offences against minors pleaded on Thursday, the 30th of November, not guilty and plans to testify at the next court hearing. The ex-legislators is accused of committing 10 criminal offenses, including two sexual assaults on minors on minors, four offenses of molestation of a person under 16 years of age, and four offenses of minor bodily harm. The former lawmaker is expected to testify on the 20th of December. He attended the Thursday hearing via videolink. Bartoševičius may face a prison sentence ranging from three to 15 years for sexual assault, up to five years in jail for the molestation of a person aged under 16, and lighter sentences for health impairment. He is suspected of committing the offenses while he served as a member of the Seimas.
Lithuania allots funds for needs of Palestinian civilians
Lithuania will allocate an additional 100 000 euros in humanitarian aid for civilians in Gaza as the temporary ceasefire continues, the country’s Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday, the 29th of November. Initial estimates of humanitarian needs in Gaza exceed one billion euros.
Jonava mayor suspends party membership amid funds misuse suspicions
Mindaugas Sinkevičius, the mayor of the central town of Jonava, announced on Wednesday, the 29th of November, he is suspending his membership of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party (LSDP) and suggesting that the Association of Local Authorities in Lithuania suspend his duties as its president amid law enforcement’s suspicions of the misuse of municipal allowances. This followed the announcement by the Prosecutor General’s Office that law-enforcement officials have brought formal charges of abuse, falsification of a document and misappropriation of property against the mayor in their pre-trial investigation into the possible misappropriation of municipal funds he received for his activities as a councillor. In its congress in May, the LSDP decided that its members who have misused municipal funds will have to pay them back and recommended that they suspend their membership if law enforcement gets involved. According to law enforcement, the available information gives them ground to suspect that Sinkevičius unlawfully received over 1,500 euros from the municipal budget.
Klaipėda to invest 3.6 million euros in hydrogen filling stations
Lithuania’s seaport of Klaipėda said on Tuesday, the 28th of November, it plans to install two hydrogen filling stations for 3.6 million euros as the port gears up for the production of hydrogen for ships and public transport. The EU will partly finance the installation with a 1.4-million-euro grant, the port said. Last spring, the port of Klaipėda announced plans to start installing seven million euro worth of green hydrogen production equipment in 2024 after receiving 4.8 million euros from the EU. Algis Latakas, the port’s CEO, says the equipment will reduce transport-released CO2 emissions in the city.
Former MP, party leader asks Supreme Court for acquittal in corruption case
Raimondas Kurlianskis, a former vice-president of MG Grupe (formerly MG Baltic), and Eligijus Masiulis, a former chairman of the Liberal Movement, on Tuesday, the 28th of November, appealed to the Supreme Court of Lithuania against the prison sentences handed to them for corruption crimes, and asked for acquittal. Last week, the Court of Appeal reversed the ruling of the first instance court and convicted all defendants in the high-profile political corruption case centering around MG Grupe, one of Lithuania’s biggest business groups. The Court of Appeal found Masiulis guilty of accepting the bribe of over 242 000 euros from Kurlianskis. The former MG Grupe vice-president was found guilty of bribery and influence peddling and handed down a prison sentence of six years. MP Vytautas Gapšys has also appealed against the Court of Appeal’s judgment and started serving his prison sentence of four years and six months. All three convicts are asking the Supreme Court to suspend the execution of the judgement.
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