Bank scandal forces PM of Lithuania to resign

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Europe Editor

Lithuania's Prime Minister, Adolfas Slezevicius, was forced out of office yesterday for his part in the country's biggest financial scandal since it regained independence in 1991. By 94 votes to 26, the parliament in Vilnius approved a decree, issued by President Algirdas Brazauskas on 29 January, which dismissed Mr Slezevicius.

Mr Slezevicius, who like the President is a reformed Communist, fell into trouble last December when it was discovered that he had withdrawn his entire personal savings from one of Lithuania's biggest banks just two days before it collapsed. It also appeared that the Innovation Bank had been paying him a higher interest rate than ordinary depositors. Another big bank, Litimpeks, failed at the same time; senior executives at both institutions were arrested. Mr Slezevicius refused to accept any responsibility for the crisis and denied that he had done anything illegal.

In an appeal to parliament yesterday, he struck a slightly more contrite note, saying: "I understand my moral mistakes, and I excuse myself in front of the President and the Lithuanian people. But there are many others who have taken out their money under the same conditions."

Mr Brazauskas described the Prime Minister's conduct as intolerable and insisted on his resignation. He named the Municipalities Minister, Mindaugas Laurynas Stankevicius, as acting Prime Minister.