The Lithuanian website 15min.lt, has come forward with some new statements after their cash-for-votes undercover video prompted an EBU investigation.
15minutes.lt has conducted an interview with the student featured in their undercover video. This student, now identified as Laurynas Juozas Liutkus, has given some more details about what led him to bring this story to 15min.lt in the first place. Liutkus is a journalism student, so when he was approaced in central Vilnius on 17 May, he's journalistic training told him that something illegal could be going on. Liutkus told 15min.lt that he and his friends were being offered up to 50€ to take part in group voting. Liutkus says:
“I am sure many would have sold their vote – for the simple reason that young people in Lithuania find this contest neither very relevant nor interesting. Besides, the sum offered by the men, 20 euros, is considerable money for a student who lives off his or her parents or on a scholarship. Besides, they initially offered as much as 50 euros for the group leader."
The confidence of the men who he and the undercover journalists eventually mentioned his was even more surprising, and there was some indication of where they were from:
“What surprised me most was that these men, fully aware they were engaging in something wrong, behaved very self-confidently, even impudently. They readily explained everything, put money on the table. This shows that they were either very bold and self-confident, or that they thought they had nothing to fear,” the student explains.
He says he still does not know what country the vote buyers were from. The only reference to their possible nationality came at the end of the meeting, when they noted they could not vote for Belarus while in Belarus.
“When we learned they wanted us to vote for Azerbaijan, my hypothesis was that either they were working for the young and ambitious singer or his producers, eager to host the Eurovision again, or that it had to do with politics – as in fact the two men intimated during the meeting. Relations between Belarus and Azerbaijan are friendly enough, so I was not too surprised that Belarusians would propose to vote for Azerbaijan,” Liutkus says.
Liutkus was contacted numerous times by the man he met originally - even into Sunday, the 19th, hours after the undercover video went online. He admited that he was slightly frightened at first by such insistence to contact him.
“At first, I assumed they would not be interested in me, that they'd be more angry with the journalists, but, come to think of it, I was the informer who ratted them out. I decided to give my name to the media, because if they were with the Mafia or high officialdom, they might be deterred seeing that I'm not intimidated and speak publicly. I am confident because I speak the truth,” Liutkus says.
Meanwhile, the Deputy Editor-in-Chief of 15min.lt, Žilvinas Pekarskas, issued an exclusive statement to 12points.tv, when we enquired about how the site feels about how their initial video launched more enquiries:
"Active response from the Eurovision media and, eventually, from the organizers of the song contest themselves is a loudable thing. Probably for the first time in Eurovision history, the organizers were presented with documented evidence, showing attempts to influence televoting. It is our hope that the investigation by 15min.lt will contribute to making the Eurovision Song Contest more transparent."
The publication of this video has brought 12points.tv some interesting, and strangely repetitve comments on our site. See below for examples.