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Lithuania High Court Acquits Former Refinery Heads of 2006 Fire

Lithuania’s Supreme Court exonerated two former executives at the Baltic nation’s oil refinery of criminal negligence charges stemming from a fire that damaged the plant in 2006.

The tribunal rejected prosecutors’ request to annul a lower court decision that acquitted Paul Nelson English and Barton Lee Luck, the former chief executive officer and his deputy at then-Mazeikiu Nafta AB, now Orlen Lietuva AB. The ruling is final, Vilnius-based Supreme Court said on its website today.

Mazeikiu, bought by Poland’s PKN Orlen SA in 2006, was damaged by fire on Oct. 12 of that year after an oil-product leak in the distillation unit, forcing the company to reduce production. Prosecutors in May 2007 accused English and Luck of ignoring safety requirements to boost profit and not stopping equipment for repairs on a regular basis.

“It was not established that the actions of the former heads of Mazeikiu Nafta exhibited signs of the crime of which they were accused,” the court said. The lower court “reached this conclusion through appropriate explanation and application of the norms of criminal law,” it said.

Orlen’s Lithuania unit received a first insurance payment for the 2006 fire of $70 million in September 2008, and a second payment of $40 million in January 2008, according to information the company provided to Bloomberg at the time.

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