Fired BaltCap Fund Manager Arrested in $29M Fraud, Gambling Probe

Posted on: February 13, 2024, 07:00h. 

Last updated on: February 14, 2024, 01:00h.

A former fund manager and partner with European private equity firm BaltCap, who is suspected of misappropriating and gambling away $29 million, has been detained in Lithuania.

Sarunas Stepukonis, Baltcap, OB Holdings 1, Olympic Casino Group
Former high-flying fund manager Sarunas Stepukonis, above, is now in custody and accused of embezzling $29 million, at least $17 million of which was transferred to casinos. (Image: Ž Gedvila/BNS)

Sarunas Stepukonis, a Lithuanian national, was arrested on Saturday, a spokesperson for the European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) said.

Estonia-based BaltCap is the largest private equity firm in the Baltic region. It fired Stepukonis in November after a routine review exposed financial mismanagement. It later contacted the police when it discovered funds had been misappropriated.

Casinos Sued

In late January, companies owned by BaltCap sued Stepukonis and two casino operators, OB Holdings 1, which owns the Olybet online casino brand, and Casino Olympic Group Baltija, which has numerous land-based casinos in the Baltics.

The lawsuit alleges Stepukonis deposited $17.94 million into accounts he held with the two operators, both of which still hold undefined shares of the money. It seeks to recover the missing millions, plus 6% interest.

Simonas Gustainis, managing partner at BaltCap, said he believes the casinos failed in their legal requirements to guard against money laundering and “pathological gambling tendencies.”

Olympic Casino Group has challenged the lawsuit. The company told the Associated Press last month that it “adheres to the highest standards of compliance with legal requirements.”

But speaking to The Baltic Times last week, Rolandas Kiskis, head of Lithuania’s financial crimes agency, said his office hadn’t received a single suspicious transaction report from Olympic Casino Group, which was unusual.

‘Potentially Problematic’

Meanwhile, Virginijus Daukšys, the head of Lithuania’s Gaming Control Authority, said the regulator was investigating the matter. But he called Stepukonis’ gambling “potentially problematic.”

If [Stepukonis] was betting such big amounts, they should have come into contact with the gambler and prevented the gambling,” Daukšys said. “Olympic’s CEO has said that they followed all the rules, so we will look into that, too.”

Stepukonis was a manager of the BaltCap Infrastructure Fund, which focused on infrastructure projects for Baltic countries. At the time of his dismissal, he headed up a company that’s in the process of building a new Lithuanian national stadium in the capital, Vilnius.

A spokesperson for Vilnius District Court said Stepukonis would be detained for 14 days from Saturday. It’s not clear if any charges have been filed against him.