Ruling party leader schemes for EU funds in Lithuania

A Lithuanian politician's family became landowners in a stratagem to take advantage of an EU subsidies program. The scandal dealt a blow to the image of the ruling party.

Daiva Repeckaite
Daiva Repeckaite NewsMavens, Lithuania
Ruling party leader schemes for EU funds in Lithuania - NewsMavens
Ramunas Karbauskis, Pulsaras, 206, Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

When the Farmers and Greens Union won the election in Lithuania (a party with a nearly identical name also catapulted itself to prominence in Latvia), its moralist but socially sensitive stance sounded like a tame alternative to the right-wing populist wave sweeping other European countries.

In Lithuania, the so-called Peasants' party was busy with alcohol restrictions and the like, while other countries in the region saw governments attacking media, NGOs and the system of checks and balances.

However, a recent investigation shows that under promises of justice, transparency and social justice there has been a dark reality of accumulation of wealth that has bypassed regulations.

The investigation first was published in, but an English version is available on the OCCRP's website.

Details from the story:

  • With 56 parliamentary seats, the Farmers and Greens won one of the biggest electoral victories the country has ever seen.
  • Ruling party chairman Ramunas Karbauskis had made many promises: transparent politics, no more corruption, a crackdown on tax avoidance. Karbauskis holds no major government posts. His only official position is chairman of the parliamentary committee on culture.
  • His farming business, Agrokoncernas, is one of the largest landowners in Lithuania.
  • Lithuanian authorities also conducted an investigation into whether his business dodged taxes on a luxurious countryside property. Furthermore, reporters have found companies owned by his relatives that helped him bypass caps on European Union agricultural subsidies.
  • A law to promote competition prevented Karbauskis’ business from taking over his debtors’ land directly -- but did nothing to stop companies owned by his relatives from doing so. The politician's sister, a psychologist, became a land owner and benefited from EU subsidies after Karbauskis' main agricultural company reached the single entity's subsidy ceiling.
  • There is also evidence that Karbauskis is building a luxurious residence from his company's accounts, offering an opportunity to avoid taxes.
  • The prosecutor general’s office launched an official investigation on the heels of the 15min investigation.
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