C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000732
STATE FOR EUR/NB AND EUR/UMB
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2015
TAGS: PREL PGOV EAID BO LH
SUBJECT: GOL EAGER TO DEAL QUIETLY WITH DETAINED BELARUSIAN
Classified By: Political...
C O N F I D E N T I A L VILNIUS 000732 SIPDIS STATE FOR EUR/NB AND EUR/UMB E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/12/2015 TAGS: PREL PGOV EAID BO LH
SUBJECT: GOL EAGER TO DEAL QUIETLY WITH DETAINED BELARUSIAN COURIER Classified By: Political/Economic Officer Alexander Titolo for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
Â¶1. (C) Summary: Senior GOL officials are focused on managing the detention by Lithuanian authorities of a Belarusian employee of a USAID contractor on charges of money smuggling. The courier was arrested as she attempted to leave Lithuania for Belarus with US$25,000, well over the limit set by Lithuanian law. The arrest puts the GOL in a delicate position as it seeks to balance its commitments to the rule of law and heightened anti-terrorism measures (established in large part at USG urging) with the desire not to hand the Minsk regime an excuse to further crack down on civil society and externally funded projects. End Summary.
Â¶2. (C) The July 8 arrest of --------------- by the Lithuanian Financial Crimes Investigation Service touched off a series of phone calls between Embassy Minsk, Embassy Vilnius, and various GOL law enforcement and MFA officials over the weekend. ------------ was detained, along with two unidentified males, after GOL officials found US$25,000 hidden in their car. The money was intended for use by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), which operates a USAID-funded project in Belarus. Anti-terrorism provisions requiring banks to notify the GOL of withdrawals exceeding US$10,000 likely tipped GOL investigators off to ------------'s activities. GOL officials told us they have records indicating that she had moved a total of US$50,000 out of Lithuania on two prior trips.
Â¶3. (C) We discussed this situation on July 11 with Jonas Paslauskas, Director of the MFA's America's Department who previously served for six years as the GOL's top envoy in Minsk. Paslauskas told us that the MFA's leadership and other top GOL officials were working intensively on the issue. He said the GOL was keen to avoid giving the Lukashenko regime an excuse to make it harder for foreign governments and NGOs to operate in Belarus. Paslauskas stressed that moving large amounts of money across the border in such a matter is dangerous for several reasons. He offered to coordinate with the USG and other organizations to avoid similar circumstances in the future. Paslauskas said the GOL uses a variety of individuals and routes to send money to groups in Belarus, including its diplomats.
Â¶4. (C) We also discussed the issue with the Acting Minister of Interior Stanislovas Liutkevicius. Liutkevicius confided that he had spoken to Foreign Minister Valionis and will be in touch with the Prosecutor General as a result of his conversation with the Minister. He said "I think we can resolve this, and it could be positive for her (-------------)." Liutkevicius said he is prepared to coordinate with the USG in the future if necessary to ensure that couriers do not face similar problems.
Â¶5. (C) Comment: It is still unclear what fate awaits --------------, though we think it unlikely that the Prosecutor General will seek a stiff punishment against someone who is working in support of the GOL's overarching interest of bringing democracy to Belarus. The GOL understands the stakes involved in this case, and is eager to avoid repeating it. To that end, it is eager to work with the USG and aid providers to avoid similar incidents in the future.