A Vilnius court has ordered a freeze on almost 20 million euros worth of funds of Vilniaus Energija (Vilnius Energy), a local district heating supplier controlled by France's Veolia, a move that the company describes as "an assault" against it and plans to contest.
© DELFI / Šarūnas Mažeika

The Vilnius Regional Administrative Court issued the freezing order on Monday at the request of the Lithuanian Competition Council, Sigita Jacinevičienė-Baltaduonė, the court's spokeswoman, told BNS.

"(The court) issued the order to freeze 19 million euros to cover the maximum possible (anti-trust) fine and 806,000 million euros in interest," the spokeswoman said.

In her words, this measure will remain in place until the Lithuanian Supreme Administrative Court's ruling in the case takes effect.

Vilniaus Energija spokesman Nerijus Mikalajūnas, says that the company "will do its best" to continue operating despite the freeze on its accounts.

"Even though such moves pose a serious threat to the company's ability to function, we will do our best to continue operations, despite the obvious wish to force Veolia out of the Vilnius heating sector," he told BNS.

Mikalajūnas said that Vilniaus Energija will contest the court's decision, which he described as "an assault" against the company that "is inconceivable in a state ruled by law".

"We are ready to take all possible legal action both in Lithuanian courts and in international courts to defend our legitimate interests and our employees from attacks by institutions and those at the helm of these institutions," he added.

The Vilnius Regional Administrative Court last month reduced a 19-million-euro fine imposed on Vilniaus Energija by the Competition Council to 17 million euros. Both the heat supplier and the competition watchdog have appealed the court's decision to the Supreme Administrative Court.

The Competition Council slapped the fine on Vilniaus Energija in December 2015 for signing a deal with First Opportunity (formerly Bionovus), an Estonia-registered biofuel supplier, to purchase biofuel exceptionally from the latter company for a period of five years. In the watchdog's opinion, the agreement may have adversely affected competition and consumers.

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