Photo illustration by John Lyman

World News


Legal Scandal Tests Lithuania’s Commitment to Rule of Law

A legal battle in Lithuania, a small Baltic nation, has recently reached Western media. The case involves the contested will of Raimondas Karpavičius, one of Lithuania’s wealthiest business tycoons, whose family members claim is fraught with fraudulent schemes and was not executed according to his wishes. Along the way, criminal investigations regarding efforts to disenfranchise the tycoon’s family have been reopened with allegations of corruption that have even reached the U.S. The next court session is scheduled for May 23rd.

A recent member of the European Union, Lithuania is an American ally in the Baltics. It has embraced democracy just as many other East European, Eurasian, and Caucasus-based nations. Although public confidence in the courts has been steadily improving in recent years, judicial corruption remains a significant concern. As was previously reported, an extensive bribery scandal in 2019 eventually led to criminal charges against 12 senior judges, including a member of the country’s highest court. All 12 had been dismissed by the end of 2021.

America continues to provide financial support to the Baltics, and Lithuania is an important ally. U.S. defense cooperation remains the lynchpin of the U.S.-Lithuania bilateral relationship. From 2017-2022, the U.S. Department of State provided $279.75 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) to Lithuania. Additionally, $8.9 million in International Military Education and Training (IMET) funding went to this small European nation.

The estate case of Raimondas Karpavičius, who before he passed away was one of the wealthiest business tycoons in Lithuania, is a litmus test of the country’s commitment to the rule of law, justice, and free markets. After the businessman passed away, the shares of his companies were transferred to his brother and female companion, Henrikas Karpavičius and Aistė Grybauskienė, through Lithuania’s probate courts. The brothers were estranged.

In the ongoing legal battle, Raimondas Karpavičius’s family alleges that corrupt law enforcement and judiciary officials combined efforts with Aistė Grybauskienė, who teamed up with Arūnas Pukelis. The pair planned to seize the assets of the deceased businessman. These individuals, along with law enforcement agencies, utilized media and corrupt lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and police officers to execute their criminal schemes. The family alleges that €110 million was distributed between the tycoon’s brother and former companion, disenfranchising his family and grandchildren.

The civil case regarding Raimondas Karpavičius’s will is in the Supreme Court. All lower court instances tend to be influenced by the aforementioned individuals and high-ranking criminal police officers. It appears that through bribery, the courts have determined that Raimondas Karpavičius understood his actions when writing his will, despite empirical evidence to the contrary. In the civil case, examinations were carried out by a state expert who, under pressure, also decided that Raimondas expressed his will and understood his actions without being influenced by anyone. Recently, the court has overturned its decisions, and the May 23rd hearing ought to be indicative of how Lithuania’s highest court can withstand the corrupt pressure of threats and bribery.

As was previously reported in the press, Raimondas’ family ordered an independent examination, the results of which were starkly different. It was mentioned there that Raimondas could not understand his actions at the time of signing his will. The same conclusion was also presented by Swiss experts and academics in the civil case.

To close this story, high-ranking criminal police officers, along with the aforementioned lawyer, Henrikas Karpavičius, and Aistė Grybauskienė, went on the offensive against the business tycoon’s family.

The testament of Raimondas was prepared by a notary who was a close friend of Grybauskienė. According to criminal case records, the testament was done based on a paper written by Raimondas. After seeing this paper, lawyers and an independent notary explained that the testament couldn’t be done from that document and an official conclusion from doctors should be presented to confirm that Raimondas could understand and express his will. Of course, this was not done, and the aforementioned individuals prepared the testament without Raimondas and presented it for signature.

The lapse in the rule of law illustrated by the ongoing saga of the Lithuanian tycoon’s estate disputes exposes complicity and corruption within Lithuania’s law enforcement and judiciary. The rule of law in Lithuania is prone to subversion through post-Soviet corruption schemes, where criminals team up with government officials, law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges to execute criminal wealth transfer schemes. However this case is decided, Lithuania’s commitment to the rule of law will be scrutinized.