And There Shall Be No Jewish Museum at the Palace of Sports, Lithuanian PM Decrees

Vilnius, June 13, BNS–A new tender for construction of a proposed Congress Center to replace the former Vilnius Palace of Sports is planned for this fall and there will be no Jewish history museum there, Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis said.

“We confirm an international tender will be announced very soon, taking into account that the earlier process was halted because of a possible lack of transparency. This project will be continued and developed further, but, unfortunately, the deadlines will be extended now,” the prime minister told BNS after meeting with Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius. “I will check, but this should be accomplished by the month of September,” he said after being asked when the tender for a new contractor would be announced.

A few months back Skvernelis and Šimašius met and said following that meeting that they were considering setting up a Jewish history museum inside the building during reconstruction. The idea drew swift criticism from Jewish representatives in Lithuania and the USA. Skvernelis now says the idea for a museum isn’t being considered any longer.

“No, we’re sticking with the project which was approved, there are currently no plans to change it or increase investment. What was decided by the previous Government will remain in place,” he said.

Vilnius mayor Remigijus Šimašius told BNS even if the Jewish museum had been rejected, there should be an emphasis on Jewish history as planned in the earlier project. “But anyway, there should be a Congress Palace, and, clearly, this is especially urgent for the city of Vilnius, since at least three hotels are being erected nearby and more generally Vilnius is being advertised as a venue for conventions, while there is a lack of capacity,” he said.

In February Turto Bank broke off negotiations with the only qualified candidate, the consortium Irdaiva, over accusations against the director of the consortium and an employee of Turto Bank who was a member of the bidding commission and at the same time worked for Irdaiva.

The Lithuanian Financial Crimes Investigation Service in February informed Turto Bank that one of the members of the public tender commission, then already a former employee at the bank, was employed at the same time by Irdaiva. BNS has learned from reliable sources that former bank employee is Tomas Lukoševičius.

Near the end of March the Financial Crimes Investigation Service searched the premises of Irdaiva and arrested its director and owner, Irmantas Kublius.

At the close of last year Lithuania’s Public Tender Service told Turto Bank they must reconsider the budget for the tender and the price offered by the consortium, which appeared inflated at 28 million euros.

Last August Turto Bank, the executor of the project to renovate the Palace of Sports as a conference center, ended the bid for a developer in which four participants had applied. Three of them hadn’t met the requirements. At that point Turto Bank entered into negotiations with the Irdaiva, Pamario restauratorius [Marine Restorer] and LitCon consortium.