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World Briefing / Lithuania

Speaker ousted amid scandal

September 16, 2009|Times Wire Reports

A TV show host turned political star was ousted as Lithuania's Parliament speaker amid a scandal sparked by a photo of him with a member of a criminal gang.

Arunas Valinskas, a charismatic TV satirist who once hosted the Lithuanian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," was thrown out of the powerful post in a 95-20 vote that included members of his National Resurrection Party.

A leading daily paper published a story in July that accused Valinskas of ties with an organized-crime syndicate in Kaunas, Lithuania's second-largest city. A picture of him shaking hands with a member of the so-called Daktarai gang accompanied the article.

The gang is responsible for several cases of homicide, robbery and auto theft in Lithuania and other countries, according to prosecutors. Its leader, Henrikas Daktaras, fled Lithuania last year and was arrested in Bulgaria last week.

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