Health minister confirms helping Lithuanian blood bank investigation

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Latvian Health Minister Anda Caksa confirmed June 19 that she had been questioned by Lithuanian officials as part of the investigation into possible corruption at the Lithuanian National Blood Center.

Caksa told LETA that representatives of both Latvian and Lithuanian law enforcement agencies had participated in the questioning. “I understand that both countries have very good cooperation in this corruption investigation”, she said

Caksa said she was probably questioned because the Latvian State Blood Donor Center was under her direct supervision but she could not say who had been the head of the blood donor center at the time that was in the focus of the investigation.

The Latvian health minister said the Lithuanian authorities had been supplied with all the documents they had requested but no searches had been carried out in Latvia at their request. She said there had been no suspicious activities in blood plasma collection in Latvia, and the Latvian State Blood Donor Center had made serious efforts to ensure transparency of all processes.

The Latvian Corruption Prevention Bureau (KNAB) told LETA that they were not the investigating but only assisting the Lithuanian Special Investigation Service in its request for legal assistance.

KNAB said they had not opened any criminal proceedings over possible corruption at the Health Ministry or the Latvian State Blood Donor Center.

Lithuania's Special Investigation Service, or STT, is investigating suspected bribery of foreign officials as part of its pre-trial investigation into alleged corruption at the Lithuanian National Blood Center. Certain investigative actions were conducted in Latvia last week, the STT said. Lithuanian officials interviewed, as witnesses, employees of the the Latvian Health Ministry and its Blood Center and received documents relevant to their investigation.

There is "a reasonable suspicion" that Joana Bikulciene, former director of the Lithuanian National Blood Center, and Antanas Petrosius, shareholder of Solis Tribus, and Ruta Stankeviciene, the company's director, "acted in an organized group in order to restrain or monopolize blood plasma collection not only in Lithuania, but also in Latvia", STT said in a press release.

"Special Investigation Service of the Republic of Lithuania, continues the pre-trial investigation on corruption offenses at the National Blood Center and is investigating alledged bribery of foreign officials. In order to collect information relevant for the investigation, acts of investigative measures were conducted last week in Latvia," the STT said.

Pre-trial investigation data provide a "reasonable suspicion" that the Director of Lithuania's National Blood Center and representatives of private company, which specializes in collection of medical raw materials, production, preparation and distribution of pharmaceutical products, "acted in an organised group, in order to  restrain or monopolise blood plasma collection not only in Lithuania, but also in Latvia," the STT said.

At the moment, 3 persons  are suspected of having committed a criminal offence.

"We responsibly pay attention to detect corruption offences not only in Lithuania, but also investigate foreign bribery cases. So corruption does not have any borders and  corrupted individuals or legal persons can not expect impunity both in Lithuania and abroad,“ said STT Director Žydrunas Bartkus.

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