For a Lithuania where it is good to live and corruption will be wiped out with a bang. Such were the campaign slogans for the leaders, who are being ever more bogged down – it turns out that party members elected to Seimas were strictly monitored to vote as the party leadership decided and each vote made by them was strictly controlled.
Prosecuted in the largest corruption case in Lithuanian history, Former deputy to Liberal Movement chairman Eligijus Masiulis and currently still a member of Seimas, Gintaras Steponavičius admitted to prosecutors that all of the group's members in Seimas were controlled and the group's secretary would present written information to each of them, how they must vote for legislation in Seimas.
If any Liberal MP nevertheless disagreed with the party leadership's position, they would not be allowed to participate in the voting under any circumstances, having to secretly leave the Seimas hall.
"This way such a member of the Liberal Movement group in Seimas would safeguard their opinion and would not harm the group position's unity," G. Steponavičius, accused of abuse of office for personal financial and other gain, stated.
Prosecutors, who handed over the case to the Vilnius District Court state that the former Liberal Movement chairman acted against the interests of a member of Seimas' service interests and abusing his, as one of the group's leaders, position and constitutional authority, obstructed freely elected MPs from voting based on their own personal choice and inner convictions, defending the interests of the state and the voters.
During the pre-trial investigation, the prosecutors uncovered that the Liberals would receive emails from the group's secretary Ieva Davydenko, in which the agenda of the specific Seimas plenary session would be specified alongside the debate questions and their summary.
"This summary colour coded, how it was decided that voting should be done during the Seimas plenary session, how the party will vote – thus we did, we wanted the MPs to not make mistakes when voting," G. Steponavičius admitted during questioning.
The MP revealed that it was specifically him that conceived the so-called streetlights "colour system": red meant that the Liberals should vote against, yellow – abstain and green – vote in favour.
G. Steponavičius' words were also confirmed by other MPs in Seimas and after reviewing E. Masiulis' computer, which was taken during a raid, an email sent by I. Davydenko to group members and their assistants was found. That said, in it, it is claimed that yellow does not mean "abstain", but to vote freely.
"We are sending you today's agenda with our group's positions. Let me remind of the marking: projects that were decided we would support are marked in green, red marks are for projects that were decided we would not support and yellow marks are on projects where it was decided voting is free. Have a good day, Ieva Davydenko."
Specifically this "colour system" created by G. Steponavičius helped answer the question, why the Liberals voted in unison regarding legislation, which interested the leaders of the MG Baltic group. This includes not just the accused liberal Šarūnas Gustainis' amendments over consumer credit, but also legislation, which discussed the repair works for the road Vilnius – Utena for 169 million euro.
Compared an insubordinate politician to A. Maldeikienė
It turns out that essentially the greatest "pain" to the Liberals was liberal member Kęstutis Glaveckas – when in November 2015 deliberations were held on Š. Gustainis' project for consumer credit legislation, specifically K. Glaveckas opposed the party leaders and declared he would not vote in favour.
During questioning later on at the prosecutors' offices, K. Glaveckas stated that neither group chairman E. Masiulis, nor other party leaders called on him with requests to vote for specific legislation in Seimas "because they knew my position that I am intolerant to such proposals and will intentionally vote otherwise than is written there."
"E. Masiulis was accustomed to me actively using my free mandate as an MP and having my own opinion on these questions, which not always matches the position proposed by the group when discussing questions of state finance and budget," K. Glaveckas said.
That an MP elected by the voters is voting as he sees fit was also well known to the management of MG Baltic – the politician was discussed a number of times during meetings held at various restaurants in the capital. And not just with the Liberals, just in January 12, 2016, the group's VP Raimondas Kurlianskis spoke about K. Glaveckas during a meeting with seemingly "the group's best friend Vytukas (diminutive for Vytautas) Gapšys."
From a conversation secretly recorded by officers it is clear that K. Glaveckas was not discussed immediately – traditionally discussing a variety of politicians and their spouses, this time they landed on MP Aušra Maldeikienė, who is known for her controversial statements and could often be seen on various shows on LNK television, which is owned by the group.
"You know who I would compare Maldeikienė to? Most likely with the liberal Glaveckas. He is neither a liberal, nor does he listen to the group, nor does he, I mean, anything. Nor does he abide by discipline. And he has his interest or viewpoint there. But here, everyone knows somehow – Glaveckas. And how much Eligijus (Masiulis) is working with him there, is how much he is working, but well... To force Glaveckas to abide discipline, let's say agreement, that means at most that he will leave the session. I mean, how he left the BFK (Budget and Finance Committee) back then... Regarding this, yeah. He mocked the lobbyists and left."
That K. Glaveckas is not obeying group chairman E. Masiulis, but unwilling to harm the party chooses to leave the Seimas session was also specified in notes written by R. Kurlianskis found during raids.
"Kęstas (Kęstutis Glaveckas) – from the session", "GLAV removed," R. Kurlianskis wrote. And nearby another note with a profanity meaning "we mocked".
Congratulated on entering the most influential media lists
However, not everyone was as principled as K. Glaveckas – without even knowing what they are voting for, the Seimas Liberals would obediently fulfil the group management's directives. And that is all they needed – before their "partners" and supporters from the MG Baltic group, they could posture, how united they are. It mattered not if the legislation passed, however after all much effort was put in and the vote was united.
Of course, for this, the group had to support the party it was backing. Not only by kind words, but also financially – in 2015 G. Steponavičius invited the group's vice president for a meeting.
"Congratulations on arriving among news media's most influential J How's your week?" the politician wrote in a text message to R. Kurlianskis after reading a survey by Delfi and the journal Reitingai, during which the most influential news media representatives in the country were elected.
"Hey, Gintaras, thanks for the congratulations. I would have been fine without entering. I can come for lunch on Thurs or for wine in the evening. Frid – lunch. With wine," R. Kurlianskis responded.
"Evening with wine sounds good," thus already on October 29, R. Kurlianskis and G. Steponavičius met at a restaurant in the capital's Gediminas Avenue. During this meeting, the politician mentioned that the Seimas elections are nearing and the party will need funds because what it obtains from the budget and the 1% from citizen tax declarations is insufficient.
"One of the sub topics and at the same time question is aid," officers recorded G. Steponavičius saying.
"Understood, so look, we have this thing looming, well I mean, a dinner looming in the format probably "three-three" somewhere... So... it will be with that partisan one more so, but... there will also be for you, was (...) we would help, we will help. You have all sorts of measures, you have a fund."
And right there the businessman declares that he could support, but only through companies belonging to the group: "So you see, directly for the elections we can only through the legal entities..."
Upon hearing these words, G. Steponavičius is surprised and corrects R. Kurlianskis: "Physical individuals."
This was no mistake though – the group's VP assures that it could be legal entities that would grant support: "Our personal contributions, you know, on one hand..."
"Your personal funds or perhaps it wouldn't even be suitable, right?" G. Steponavičius inquired.
"Not because of that. For us it's... Unless it's inconvenient for you, it's no big deal for us, just there you know, the sums are completely different than the ones where, how should I say... Because I saw Eligijus' (Masiulis) smile when we, I think dined before the municipal, rather... when...."
"Well, you've seen smiles and more, but..." G. Steponavičius was little surprised.
Sufficiently flexible to give
"So yeah, we will look there and you should think up measures, even better if it pans out in time. From physical and legal, that's not the simplest. We can realise it in shifts still. You cannot compare if to each that is... Wait where you went for visits, for example?" R. Kurlianskis continued.
"We are continuing, but you know, there is just a nuance, a certain moral one in this regard that... So we are doing this on the scale of all of Lithuania, but... "Brighten Lithuania's future", there's Eligijus (Masiulis), Gentvilas (Eugenijus), me Svaras (Gabrielius Liaudanskas, a performer in G&G Sindikatas), Šapauskas (Rimas). So everything's fine, what I wanted to say, so you know, from your side. (...) And in such a case that's ok. We will have a fund in my name, we're doing all sorts of other projects, the Freedom Studies Centre, my fund," G. Steponavičius responded.
"But we can't support at any time," R. Kurlianskis declared. This surprises G. Steponavičius: "Not giving support? Perhaps somehow..."
"We are where the sensation is, so we, we... I mean, we are fairly flexible. Not completely flexible, but sufficiently flexible to give. I initiated Eligijus (Masiulis) myself that you should try to decide until New Year's when. It would appear we will discuss all this in corpore some time. I don't know your view, your personal opinion, your, your, some sort of... money is measured in numbers. Let's see, we are arranging projects."
Wanted support from personal funds – wealthy businessman after all
Having known R. Kurlianskis for over 20 years, G. Steponavičius says tht during this conversation he asked for funding from the group's VP as a private individual (physical entity). "I called on R. Kurlianskis because I knew he is a wealthy businessman, who can allow himself to back members of Seimas financially due to his wealth," the liberal spoke during questioning.
The politician, who is slated to stand trial, noted that to him, a veteran politician, it is known that with changes to political party financing regulations, legal entities could no longer back parties.
"During this conversation R. Kurlianskis said that the owners of MG Baltic and its leaders offer to financially support the political party as physical entities and will do it by such means and such sums that are allowed based on existing political party financing regulations," G. Steponavičius, who does not plead guilty, explained.
However, is it really the way that the former deputy chairman of the Liberal Movement explained? The officers, who secretly recorded his and R. Kurlianskis' conversations, hold a completely different opinion.
Already in December 2015, during the famous dinner between E. Masiulis, G. Steponavičius and the MG Baltic leaders it was revealed that the MG Baltic group intends to provide the party with 50 thousand euro for the October 2016 Seimas elections.
While E. Masiulis did not speak of the "gift" promised during this dinner during his questioning at the prosecutors' offices, he was uncovered by G. Steponavičius – the party chairman, who was headed home with a Strumbras gift bag recounted how upon going outside to smoke with R. Kurlianskis he found out that the party would receive financial support... What its purpose is, according to G. Steponavičius, E. Masiulis did not reveal. He was only glad the evening was successful.
The group's generosity interested G. Steponavičius – after all just a few months ago he personally met with R. Kurlianskis and also discussed financial support. Thus, just a month after the dinner the politician reached out to R. Kurlianskis and offered to meet. Talk not only about life and politics, but also money, which the party sorely needed.
Gave to E. Masiulis, so G. Steponavičius also needs
"Knowing from E. Masiulis about R. Kurlianskis and Masiulis' agreement on 50 thousand euro support for the Liberal Movement, during the January 11, 2016 meeting with R. Kurlianskis I requested financial support for both me personally as a candidate in a single mandate electoral district in the nearing elections for the 2016-2020 term Seimas and for the institutions linked to me – the public institution Freedom Studies Centre and G. Steponavičius' Support Fund," G. Steponavičius admitted to the prosecutors.
This meeting between the liberal politician and group VP or, as they said – lunch – was held at a restaurant in the capital's Constitution Avenue, it was also secretly recorded by intelligence operatives.
"Eligijus (Masiulis) referred me a little, asked to continue the conversation on what you spoke about when you went smoking before the holidays... Based on this, I would also like to discuss a little," G. Steponavičius told R. Kurlianskis.
"If we write anything, there, those two guys don't appeal to us, but yeah, we can realise it," R. Kurlianskis responded, not explaining who "those two guys" are.
"For a start, what size did you, so we would understand one another right, discuss?" despite knowing what support the group promised E. Masiulis, the MP still wanted to know the exact sum from the "supporter".
But R. Kurlianskis never mentions the exact sum: "Yeah we are, we have agreed like that, so that means... How should I say further, I wrote down for myself or rather we wrote down for ourselves. So I mean, I don't know, how you want, but personally that's how it is."
In this part of the conversation R. Kurlianskis took a piece of paper from the table and wrote down "20 000".
"Great! Super! That there is also important and then..." G. Steponavičius erupted with joy on finding out he would receive support not just as a candidate to Seimas, but also for his support fund and studies centre.
"I don't know, that good, no good for you?" the group's VP asked?
"Absolutely," the liberal MP answered.
Needs money as soon as possible
Then R. Kurlianskis continued, "But in the morning we planned with colleague Darius (Mockus) like that and then forms and..."
G. Steponavičius agrees "Ok. And then... how much? It could be here as well.... Differently. So starting now... also from some certain arrangements. So the situation is such that in this stage we can realise it through a variety of activities, through certain types and measures."
According to the liberal politician, R. Kurlianskis promised to grant the Freedom Studies Centre 10 thousand euro and 5 thousand each to G. Steponavičius' Support Fund and to him as a candidate to Seimas.
"The next stage, to my understanding, we need to directly because here, already advertising and all the expenses, we have to have budgets for ourselves. That budget... financing will definitely not be enough for us. And then there is the question, how it should be done. If we now, for example had to think that, for example Rimas Mikaitis (head of the Freedom Studies Centre). Then... ten... well, to that Freedom Studies Centre. You would say, to write the requests..."
"Requests without an addressee, we will sign down," R. Kurlianskis stated.
"How many copies? One? Two?" G. Steponavičius inquired.
"To the same, the same one," R. Kurlianskis responded ambiguously.
"Perhaps so, the sources differ," the liberal MP understood.
"I mean, ten at least as starting points," R. Kurlianskis spoke in riddles.
But G. Steponavičius needed funding here and now: "Yeah, say that if over the coming few weeks there could be that ten, we would continue to discuss among ourselves. Whether there is still demand here."
R. Kurlianskis promises that no problems will arise and then G. Steponavičius continues, after all he still needs support: "And then there's another question... at this stage if it were possible to have into my own fund as well... Yeah. Three."
The group's VP promises to arrange things once again and upon inquiring whether G. Steponavičius' Fund is still led by Vytautas Toleikis, offers to write a request to the group.
Just this time G. Steponavičius asks to transfer money from companies, whose activities would not raise conflicts of interest in future activities because at this point he was confirmed as the Liberal Movement's candidate to the post of minister of education and science: "Just in this case a request would be that it would be, let's say... that certain things would be less visible that would bring me afterward to some conflict of interests. That I am administering, receiving some sort of thing there, I don't know how further."
Didn't mistreat himself when arranging funding
When R. Kurlianskis promises to make suitable arrangements, G. Steponavičius confirms once more "ten... plus three" and continues: "Well ok and now just to clarify. Some sort of physical entities, you imagine the model, which could support in realising?"
"We have physical entities." The group's VP retorts. What individuals they referred to, the officers doing the recording were unable to uncover.
Afterward they went on to discuss the Freedom Studies Centre head R. Mikaitis, who is the former mayor of Kaunas – G. Steponavičius mentioned that during his leadership of the centre, he does not mistreat himself.
"In some episodes the feeling wouldn't leave me that when he arranges funding, that he, how should I say, wouldn't mistreat himself either. So that is an aspect. You know, what I can say is that... It is bad. That trait prevents him from strengthening confidence in him. When elections happened here, he began going around, just imagine and claim that he is delegated by the party to arrange finances and matters with major supporters. It turned out that no, there was no authorisation and he was really angry. So he didn't cheat you?"
R. Kurlianskis responded that there never were problems due to R. Mikaitis, thus once more proposed that he should write a request for support from the group. O. Steponavičius also added that it will be signed by not just R. Mikaitis, but also V. Toleikis.
"Now look, if it works out that I find some good legal entity, I will ask you, it could be that it will be..." R. Kurlianskis admitted that he is already considering, what company to provide financial support through.
But G. Steponavičius is still concerned that he could land in a conflict of interests: "I would say otherwise, it is possible to do five like this then and afterward, I will need for another cycle."
"Then for now I keep it to the amount you said, but if anything – I'll... somehow otherwise," R. Kurlianskis responded.
World looks brighter on receiving funds
After agreeing on the promised support, G. Steponavičius informed V. Toleikis and R. Mikaitis, who soon presented requests for support. And a month later an MG Baltic company MG Baltic media transferred 10 thousand euro the Freedom Studies' Centre's account and 5 thousand to the G. Steponavičius Support Fund.
That said, G. Steponavičius expected that the funds will reach the accounts sooner – officers have recorded a number of SMS messages from the politician to R. Mikaitis, asking "how's it with income", while the later would answer "not flowing in yet."
Group VP R. Kurlianskis had pledged to support G. Steponavičius during the upcoming Seimas election campaign, but never fulfilled the promise.
"The five thousand euro to my electoral campaign, regarding which we spoke during the meeting with R. Kurlianskis, I never received because on May 12th, during a raid a large amount of funds was found at E. Masiulis' home, which was linked to MG Baltic and I did not contact MG Baltic with a request for a transfer to my electoral account," G. Steponavičius said during questioning.
During the investigation it was revealed why G. Steponavičius urgently needed funds for the Freedom Studies Centre – after the 10 thousand euro was transferred to the centre's account, over a few times almost the entire sum was transferred to R. Mikaitis' account, who specified in the transfer purpose that it was wages, which he had not received in a long time.
"Now, how should I say, the world looks brighter," R. Mikaitis rejoiced on obtaining his wages.
From the support received, 118 euro was transferred to a journalist, who participated in the centre's civic lessons in Lithuanian schools.
According to G. Steponavičius, with the group's support, the Freedom Studies Centre, which advertised the Liberals, could continue operating because apparently this support was essential.
"Things will now correct themselves," G. Steponavičius stated during a conversation with R. Mikaitis, despite the centre's head complaining that it is becoming difficult to find public figures, who would participate in the civic lessons and furthermore, appearance fees had to be allocated to Svaras and R. Šapauskas, sometimes traveller and journalist Vytaras Radzevičius also participated and it was necessary to pay him as well.