Why this story matters:
Doom-and-gloom prophets who had little faith in contemporary democracy have one more case to rejoice over. As an investigation by the State Security Department in Lithuania has revealed, a business conglomerate named MG Baltic has not only benefited from lucrative public procurement deals in the construction of science valleys, modernisation of railways and the like, but also penetrated media and multiple political parties. The Liberal Movement, a party of preference for educated urbanites, is sinking under corruption allegations.
This is not just another corruption story.
The extent of control MG Baltic exerted over media reports about politicians, as well as its power to appoint party leadership, and split and merge political parties is an ideal illustration of the power of business in contemporary politics.
While family relationships and interests have to be declared before elections, there is no system to effectively keeping track of friendships, which results in deals concluded in hunters' gatherings or tennis courts.
The most extensive write-up of the story was published by 15min.lt last week.
It shows how MG Baltic was crucial in pushing the splits and mergers among liberal parties, and how liberal politicians coordinated their decisions with the business.
Furthermore, the conglomerate supported the socialist troublemaker Algirdas Paleckis, contributing to splits in the Social Democratic party. Whenever politicians disobeyed, the conglomerate threatened negative coverage in the media it owned - most notably LNK TV channel and Alfa.lt news portal. The findings are likely to deal a blow to Lithuanians' trust in the media and political parties. According to the latest ratings, Liberals have slid below the parliamentary threshold of 5%.
Details from the story:
- Four politicians and the deputy CEO of MG Baltic stand before trial in Vilnius for alleged corruption.
- The State Security Department tapped the phones of suspects for a period spanning multiple parliament terms.
- Implicated politicians are suspected receiving concealed bribes from the conglomerate in exchange for favourable legislation (credits, advertising, profit tax, etc), support and protection for politicians and senior officials favourable to MG Baltic, and government contracts.
- The bribes were paid to non-profits affiliated with the implicated politicians. The largest bribe, over 106 thousand euros, was allegedly paid in cash to the chairman of the Liberal party at the time.
- Before the 2016 elections, MG Baltic targeted four political parties: Liberals, Labour Party, Social Democrats and Conservatives.