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2019.11.04 16:00

Orlen Lietuva's sport sponsorship a reward for favours from Lithuanian PM, investigation alleges

BNS2019.11.04 16:00

Orlen Lietuva, the Lithuanian oil refinery owned by Poland's Orlen, received concessions on the transportation of goods via Lithuanian Railways and secured success during state power reserve auctions after Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis had held unannounced meetings with Polish politicians, the 15min.lt news website reports.

In exchange, the Polish group supported the BC Rytas and Lietkabelis Panevėžys basketball clubs, as well as the Regional Basketball League. All these organisations have links with businesspeople in Skvernelis' circles, the 15min.lt investigation has revealed.

Darius Gudelis, a PR expert with close ties to the Lithuanian prime minister, is one of the major shareholders of BC Rytas. Skvernelis' former colleague in the police and now businessman Alvydas Bieliauskas is the president of Lietkabelis.

According to Tomas Pačėsas, who introduced Skvernelis to Polish politicians, Skvernelis and Bieliauskas had close ties.

The basketball clubs do not disclose the value of the support they received from Orlen Lietuva. The Regional Basketball League was given 10,000 euros. It was also managed by Gudelis and Pačėsas.

Orlen Lietuva has accumulated a debt of 12 million euros to the Lithuanian government since 2011 as it failed to pay the so-called Public Service Obligations (VIAP) tax that is aimed at promoting green energy.

The company also found itself in a debt worth millions of euros for the transportation of rail freight after the Lithuanian government increased the tariff for hazardous freight, including oil products.

The company turned to courts and reached a compromise with the Lithuanian Railways June 2017.

In November 2017, Lithuania's Energy Ministry announced a planned concession, allowing companies to recover 85 percent of the VIAP tax, and Orlen Lietuva will be able to take advantage of it once it pays the electricity debt. The new rules came into force in April 2019.

Due to the VIAP debt, Orlen Lietuva could not take part in state power reserve auctions in Lithuania. But the company asked for and was granted an exception and subsequently took part in and won the auction with other companies. The state has already paid it 6 million euros for a reserve service for two years.

The 15min.lt reports that Orlen Lietuva had its problems resolved after Skvernelis had unannounced meetings with Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the leader of the ruling party in Poland, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and other politicians and Orlen Lietuva representatives in 2016-2018.

Skvernelis called the allegations that the Lithuanian basketball clubs received financial support in gratitude for favourable decisions false, and Orlen Lietuva refused to answer journalists' questions.