Lithuanian Special Services Embroiled in Scandal

// Accused of Embezzling Belorussian Opposition Budget

Yesterday the National Security and Defense Committee in the Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, demanded that President Valdas Adamkus relieve State Security Department (VSD) head Arvydas Pocius of his duties. The deputies' demand came in the wake of investigations into the activities of the country's influential special services, whose leadership is suspected of unscrupulous financial dealings. The scandal, which has reached as high as the Lithuanian president himself, threatens the leadership of the special services with embarrassing revelations and public resignations.

Members of the National Security and Defense Committee in the Lithuanian parliamentary petitioned President Valdas Adamkus yesterday to temporarily relieve State Security Department (VSD) head Arvydas Pocius of his duties during a parliamentary investigation into the activities of the country's influential special services.

The deputies appealed to Mr. Adamkus soon after Mr. Pocius announced on Tuesday that he is preparing to fire two senior VSD officers: Department of Counterintelligence head Vytautas Damulys and his deputy Vilmantas Belyauskas. Earlier the VSD's press service, without naming names, had reported that the department is the focus of "internal investigations concerning illegal transfers and disclosures of secret operational information to Lithuanian and foreign citizens," in connection with which "several employees have been relieved of their professional duties and are taking:lie-detector tests." Mr. Damulys and Mr. Belyauskas would appear to be among the suspects in the information leaks.

Meanwhile, however, the Lithuanian media has reported that Vytautas Damulys shared information not with foreign spies but with members of the Seimas. He appeared before the parliamentary National Security and Defense Committee several times as a witness in the investigations into the activities of the VSD.

The situation concerning the powerful special services first raised warning flags in the Lithuanian parliament in September, after Vytautas Pociunas, a career officer in the department and a consular officer at the Lithuanian general consulate in Hrodno, died suspiciously in Brest on August 23 after falling from the window of the "Intourist" Hotel. According to Belorussian investigators, Mr. Pociunas accidentally fell out of the window while intoxicated. An alternative version of events, however, has provoked a scandal and prodded the Seimas to open a serious investigation into the VSD's activities. This version was promulgated by the independent Lithuanian newspaper Liasvas laikrastis, which began its own investigations into the special services officer's death.

According to the newspaper, Vytautas Pociunas was either poisoned or stunned by a blow to the head before being thrown out of the window. The newspaper also put forth a possible motive for murder: Mr. Pociunas had apparently undertaken, on his own initiative and without consulting the leadership of the VSD, investigations into the spending of $420 million that was purportedly given by the United States Congress to aid the overthrow of Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko. A significant portion of the funds was sent to Lithuania, where it was cashed and sent on by courier to Minsk. It soon became apparent that large sums of money from the budget that had been designated for the organization of a "color revolution" in Belarus were going elsewhere. According to Liasvas laikrastis, Vytautas Pociunas had discovered that the funds earmarked for democracy were being dishonestly "appropriated" by high-ranking officials from the VSD who had access to the money. Not long before his death, Mr. Pociunas met with US Ambassador to Belarus George Kroll in Minsk and received some important pieces of information from him.

The journalists' revelations soon reached the ears of the special services. VSD officials briefly arrested Aurimas Drizius, the editor-in-chief and publisher of Liasvas laikrastis, and stopped the day's edition of the newspaper from being printed, but that could not stop the sensational information from becoming public through other media outlets. The VSD's actions did not escape notice in the Seimas, where interest was aroused by the department's unexpectedly strenuous efforts to prevent the publication of material that it found to be compromising, The parliament quickly launched an investigation into the VSD's internal affairs.

The first noisy conflict between the parliament and the Lithuanian "Chekists" took place last week and unexpectedly dragged Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus into the mud. The president categorically opposed the creation of a special commission in the Seimas to investigate the VSD. He also supported the position of special services chief Pocius, who insisted that any parliamentary investigations be carried out behind closed doors and that they not leave the confines of the National Security and Defense Committee. Mr. Pocius argued that it is forbidden to divulge any information concerning circumstances within his department, since that "only damages the national security of Lithuania itself."

Having achieved the promise of a closed investigation, Mr. Pocius for all intents and purposes cut ties with the National Security and Defense Committee. In particular, he refused to furnish information requested by members of the committee. Instead, he sent letters to the president, the prime minister, and the speaker of the Seimas in which he explained his refusal on the grounds that the information requested by the deputies is "illegal in character" and that the information contains the names of "the country's most important people." Despite his efforts, however, information from the VSD continued to make its way to the parliament. It is obvious that the special services then decided to carry out its own investigations, the victims of which turned out to be Vytautas Damulys and Vilmantas Belyauskas, who had both worked with the National Security and Defense Committee.

Yesterday the Seimas launched a new attack on the head of the special services. In their appeal to President Adamkus to relieve Mr. Pocius of his responsibilities, the parliamentary deputies clearly implied that the head of the special services was interfering with the investigation into his department. If Valdus Adamkus gives in to the parliament's demand, the scandal will undoubtedly mean that more embarrassing revelations and resignations lie ahead for the leadership of the Lithuanian special services.

Vladimir Vodo (Vilnius) and Nikolai Filchenko