They were charged after Saulius Verseckas, prosecutor from the Prosecutor General's Office, re-qualified charges. They were previously charged with providing false data about income, profits, and assets to state institutions in order to avoid taxes as well as misinforming about ctivities of the party.
"We takr into account the existing judicial practice in similar cases that tax avoidance constitutes fraud," Verseckas told BNS, when asked why the charges in the Labour Party's case were re-qualified.
The prosecutor said the factual circumstances remain the same, and they are only being framed differently in legal terms.
According to Verseckas, following the re-qualification, the statute of limitations would be longer and the defendants are facing stricter punishment.
The prosecutor said earlier the Labour Party's financial documentation for the 2004-2006 period failed to include about LTL 25 million (EUR 7.3 million) in income and about LTL 23 million in spending related to property, commitments, and structural changes. The party also allegedly failed to pay taxes of around LTL 4 million.
Uspaskich is facing up to 8 years in prison. He strongly denies all charges.
Lithuanian MEP Viktor Uspaskich, leader of the Labour Party, says he plans to have a prosecutor who re-qualified charges in the party's fraudulent bookkeeping case replaced, and he called prosecutor Saulius Verseckas' actions politicizing ahead of the run-ff vote in the Seimas elections.
"That's politicizing. There are no circumstances; charges are changed ahead of the elections. That's clear politicizing. We plan to demand the prosecutor's replacement," Uspaskich told BNS on Friday.
The party's vice-chairman and MP Vytautas Gapšys, another defendant in the case, also called the prosecutor's actions a political action.
"I cannot call it any other way but a political action as it was done on purpose ahead of the run-off elections, with mere hours left until the vote," he said.
"The prosecutor himself acknowledged that nothing has changed from what he saw in 2006-2007, only the political situation changed," Gapšys resented.
In his words, the court only accepted Verseckas' request but did not express its own position. The court adjourned the hearing for the defendants to be able to get acquainted with the request.
"The prosecutors knew very well that the best time to submit such a request was on the last day before the run-offs as we won’t be able to defend ourselves. Even if the court rejects the request afterwards, the elections will be over by then," Gapšys said.