Salamakinas : “I have a question: where is more corruption – in our country or in Belarus?”

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Algimantas Salamakinas. Photo by Valentinas Goris

As Belarusians told us: “in Belarus responsible people would have already been sent to “rest” for seven years after such competition of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs”. Meanwhile there is a prevailing opinion in relation to the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs: just support the “correct” position within Ukrainian question, and otherwise do what you want. Photo president.gov.by.

“Hot commentary” continues journalistic investigation about Komsomol business in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs – about how the Ministry of Foreign Affairs gave the goose that lays the golden eggs (issuance of visas) to Indian company, towards wich side stick out ears of former uncommon Moscow Komsomol members.

As we have already mentioned, though the Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius makes grandstand play as an ardent proponent of American interests and constantly focuses the severity of sanctions against Russia, as is also actively supports the arms supplies to civil war-torn Ukraine, in actual fact in the Ministry under his direction completely opposite things happen – issuance of Lithuanian visas in seven foreign countries gave to a private company, which roots back to good old Komsomol times in Moscow. This is not just a business, reaping huge profits, but a giant database of personal information (including fingerprints).

Moreover, it transpired that the winner of the competition for the establishment of the visa application centres announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is very similar to fraud: some submitted to the Ministry addresses in Belarus, where would be allegedly established centres for issuance of Lithuanian visas – it’s just pure bluff, since these addresses have nothing to do with visa application centres. One of address – is the former Bank’s address, where were only destroyed and not repaired premises after his move and even during the competition no one of these premises was rented. At another submitted addres is located only 9-storey block of social use premises, and it doesn’t smell like visa application centre at all.

In the end, the winner of the competition didn’t establish any Lithuanian visa application center, and just changed the signboard at the visa application centre in Minsk, where already have been issued Spanish and Danish visas. Just was added one more word to the lettering on signboard – “Lithuania”.

And finally, it became clear that our winner of the competition of Ministry of Foreign Affairs – “VFS Global” – doesn’t work directly by itself. “VFS Global” just wins competitions, and after that intermediaries start to work. The intermediaries’ legs usually grow from Moscow, but the accounts are located in the offshore zones.

So could you please explain, where was the State Security Department all this time? Isn’t that its function to supervise such competitions, to check participants and to warn the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about firms, which look like Indian formally, but inside they are Russian, and financial streams are flooding to the account in the offshore zones?

You won’t believe, but it turns out that the State Security Department has nothing to do with it. Any “ulbinaitė”, which give to media “secret information” about “attacks planed by Russia against the President”, are more important for the State Security Department.

The genuine threat to national security is hiding here in the State Security Department’s view. And about the fact that the former Moscow Komsomol under an umbrella “Made in India” received as a gift from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (under the control of former Lithuanian Komsomol members) “the goose that lays the Golden eggs” with a giant database for good measure – the State Security Department says: “it’s neither my headache nor my piece of cake!”

” I’ve never saw such things during the entire 23-year period of parliamentary work, – says the Chairman of the Environment Committee of the Seimas Algimantas Salamakinas, who, as it turned out, warned the Minister of foreign Affairs L. Linkevičius about this Russian-Indian venture in the beginning of the competition.

We bring to your kind attention an interview with a member of the Environment Committee of the Seimas Algimantas Salamakinas.

– Mr. Salamakinas, you are a member of the Environment Committee of the Seimas, thus the visa case, it would seem, that’s really none of your Committee concern. Why are you interested in this topic? As a representative of the ruling majority, the member of the Seimas?

-The beginning was as follows: I was contacted by two Belarusian representatives. I asked why they appeal to me, they said that they know one of the leaders of the Lithuanian Wrestling Federation, which is familiar person to me, and they said: “You are an honest man.”

I thought they need some kind of protection or something like that, but no, they said they need no protection, and their request was very simple – they want only honest competition in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

I told them that Lithuania is a Democratic Republic, that we are fighting against corruption and that there are rumors of major corruption in Belarus.

However, they said that they have information, that the competition actually can be carried out in bad faith, and that one company, which is represented by two former high officials of the Komsomol “Sputnik” “covered” by registered in India company, are following a very dishonest path. And they have suggested that in Lithuania could happen the same thing.

We, the representatives of the older generation, remember that “Sputnik” was organising trips abroad for Komsomol members. What does it mean? That they had to have connections with the KGB in some or other way.

I promised to talk with the Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevičius, which I have done.

I said: “Linas, there is such kind of competition.” And he replied: “I know, this competition will be held”. And I asked to check the fairness of competition, as the Chairwoman of the Commission is the Chancellor of the Ministry. The Minister said that he will monitor.

Then I reminded him about it after Public hours, when we met in the Seimas. He promised me to make sure that everything will be fair.

I said to the Minister – there is evidence that one company is bluffing: doesn’t comply with the conditions, because doesn’t maintain premises or trained personnel, and participates only in order to win the competition. Then, as Belarusian representatives have told me, this company is looking for somebody to resell or to rent out.

«What we were talking about has happened»

– What has happened next?

-At first time, as far as I know, the competition did not take place. According to one member who is in those circles, chairwoman of the Commission after the vote in regard to Armenia and Azerbaijan said: “Let’s see who is a winner.” The winner was not VFS Global.

Although I think it was wrong action – at first it was necessary to vote with respect to all States and only then see who is a winner.

And then, as far as I know (though I do not have a recording, but I believe that journalists could get that recording and check it), she went off into hysterics: why VFS Global is not a winner? She stopped the competition and said “appoint a meeting another time”

One of the Commission members which, as far as I know, is responsible for security, said that this company is in serious suspicions.

However, the chairwoman of the commission stopped the competition.

Then she convened the Commission again, but not all members of the commission were presented. Then the Commission was convened again.

Then those Belarusian representatives approached me and said, “Well, that’s what we talked about, something happened.” At that time some members of the Commission also didn’t participate, and this, in my opinion, is a violation, because participants have to be rated by the Commission in full. And the VFS Global won.Then, I was contacted by Belarusian representatives and they said: “Well, now, what were we talking about, has happened”.

«If you have not controlled it by yourself then come to the State Security Department»

-What has happened next?

-Belarusians brought me a lot of materials, which I handed over to the Minister Linus Linkevicius and I said: «If you have not controlled it by yourself then come to the State Security Department». The Minister promised to review the materials and hand them over to the State Security Department in order to check the company.

Two or three weeks passed but I did not receive any information. Then I called Grina, the Head of the State Security Department, in order to find out if he has the information about the company that won the tender announced by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Grina told that he did not want to intervene in tender matters and that Linus Linkevicius handed over the materials to him without any attached letter – just asked to review.Grina made clear that he will not participate in this game and the conversation was over.

As the tender has been won already I advised the Belarusians to go through legislation – apply to court. And they did it.

You know, for the first time in years I deal with such situation, that…

But, frankly, if we care about the country’s security there was no need to establish visa centres – it must be public services. What is visa issuance by a private company? It is data, property and other things. And if people work unfair there they can get all the data. Moreover, if a winner of such a tender «lease business» then it is of interest for dishonest people. Because who has the information – runs the state. But as it turns out that, as it seems, the government refuses to control it.

Another interesting fact: when VFS Global won the tender, those Belarusians immediately got a call with the offer to buy a victory or to give away the premises. As those Belarusians were prepared incredibly – they really invested in the premises, fully prepared, so that there are no obstacles to win the tender. However, it turned out that the tender won the company, which does not need the premises, even identity check was not carried out.

«Where are our representatives of the opposition in this case? »

-Yes, this situation is, put it mildly, strange. And there is strange ringing silence around this tender.

– I am surprised where are our representatives of the opposition who claim that we are beware of Russians too much? There was no reaction from them.

Even though I am a representative of the ruling majority, but now I speak as a representative of some of the opposition, since I, frankly, a little ashamed before Belarusians – we say that Belarus has the most corruption and so on, but we have not found out … until the end … What has happened here? I have a question who has this corruption more – we or they?

In Belarus, for such a thing – they would “rest” on the plank bed

-In Belarus such a tender would consider fraud. As one of the Minsk lawyers said, “if such a thing happened in our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the responsible persons would have been sent to” rest for seven years.

– Yes, without a doubt. Therefore, I say: I, as a member of the Seimas, have been working there for 23 years old, ashamed before the Belarusians. It is not just a competition for the construction of a toilet, as it was in Kaunas – for half a million, it is related to a national security. And that’s how to give up? …

I do not understand why there was not all checked out until the end? Why did Linus Linkevicius not focused his efforts on this issue? Why is the Head of the State Security Department Grina so casually replied: “We are not going to interfere”. Especially knowing who those people are behind this – when the evidence that they worked in the «Sputnik» were given to me, we found out what is the company it was.

It is very strange, especially in this aspect, when 10 times a day we hear that Russians are bad.

Another thing, if Belarusians participate in the competition, they probably know better their country, responsibility?

«Incredible money are making here»

– From time to time complaints are heard that the embassies do not have enough money, some consulates are closed, etc. Why the issuance of visas can not be solely a matter of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? Because there are millions which would be sufficient for our ambassadors, who could work as “regular persons”, and it would be possible to open more embassies or consulates? Why the goose that lays the golden eggs was given to a private company? And, as it turns out, it was given to the former high Moscow Komsomol members?

– When I had time, I asked whether the establishment of such private visa centers mandatory EU Directive. It turns out that such mandatory EU directive does not exist. We could leave things as they are, as you say, to increse the network of consulates, embassies and continue to issue visas without passing into private hands. As it is a lot of money. If with each visa 1 or 2 euros fell into a pocket, it would get more than hundred or two hundred thousand.

– It is noted in an official statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that the private owner will receive 20-26 Euro from one visa.

– Incredible money are making here.

– If the State Security Department does not deal with this issue, maybe the Special Investigation Service would be interested in this issue?

– I do not know, I have not talked to Special Investigation Service. In my opinion, first of all, the State Security Department should be interested in this issue. As it is directly related to their functions. It is not to catch imaginary spies. The issuance of visas in the hands of private individuals? They had to control it. That is why I called Grina.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs refused to provide audio recording

To continue investigation, «Hot Commentary» applied to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requesting the audio recording of the tender committee meeting on the establishment of visa centers as of September 2, 2014 and minutes of the meeting. This audio recording would help to reveal the circumstances of cancellation of the results of the competition – when the establishment of visa centers in Armenia and Azerbaijan was won not by «VFS Global», as well as the convening of the new competition.

«Please be informed that the protocol of the results of the selection of providers includes the results of the evaluation of applications of all candidates who took part in the selection. The protocol was drawn up by the committee for selection of external service providers that was appointed by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not have the consent of all the candidates participated for public disclosure of their data, so we can not give such information», – said the Department of Information and Public Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Consequently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this situation prefers to choose the position of the ostrich – hide the head in the sand and pretend that everything is well.

But is it really so?

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