LONDON – A UK court has allowed the extradition of a Russian banker and his Lithuanian business partner to Lithuania in connection with the collapse of the Snoras bank, the fifth largest bank in the Baltic country.
Lithuania seized the bank, Snoras, in November 2011 after the central bank said it found a 1 billion litas ($393 million) hole in its assets, which it later increased to around 4 billion litas.
The Lithuanian General Prosecutor office told the London court that Vladimir Antonov, a former owner of Portsmouth Football Club, and Raimondas Baranauskas, together the former owners of the bankrupt Snoras bank, are wanted on suspicion of asset embezzlement valued at a combined 1.7 billion litas and document fraud.
“The UK Westminster Magistrates’ Court said that today (Monday) it has granted the request from the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office to hand R. B. and V. A., the suspects in the Snoras case, over to Lithuania,” Lithuanian General Prosecutor office said in a press release.
According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, the decision of the first instance court can be appealed within seven days to a higher instance court and then to the highest instance court.
Both the accused have denied wrongdoing and are expected to appeal against the ruling handed down by Westminster Magistrates’ Court.
Antonov bought the English club in June 2011, but had to step down as its chairman after the club’s parent company went into administration following the closure of Snoras, in which he held more than 60 percent stakes.
Baranauskas, who held 25 percent stakes in Snoras, left Lithuania for London after the bank’s closure, while Antonov had been living there even before it was shut down.
The closure also led to the winding up of Snoras’ subsidiary in neighboring Latvia, Krajbanka.
No one was immediately available to comment on behalf of Baranauskas, while one of Antonov’s lawyers declined to comment.
The London court began hearing the extradition case in late 2011.
Another court in London last February rejected Antonov’s request to put off the hearing of a civil suit against him, pending the decision on his extradition to Lithuania and on the cancellation of the arrest warrant.
Both men currently live in the United Kingdom and are fighting their extradition to Lithuania.
The Lithuanian government nationalized Snoras on Nov. 16, 2011. A court opened bankruptcy proceedings against the bank on Dec. 7 of that year.