Former owner of Latvijas Krajbanka found guilty of fraud by UK court

By bne IntelliNews June 6, 2016

The former co-owner of defunct Lithuanian lender Snoras Bank has been found guilty of fraud by a UK court. The verdict rules that Vladimir Antonov caused subsidiary Latvijas Krajbanka losses of nearly €90mn, the Latvian bank's insolvency administrator announced on June 6.

KPMG Baltics reports that the High Court of England delivered the verdict in late May. The administrator submitted two civil claims against Antonov in June and July 2014, demanding that the Russian banker compensate losses he had caused, LETA reports. The UK court will rule on the interest that Antonov owes the bank on top of the compensation in the coming weeks.

The 2011 collapse of Krajbanka was closely linked to Antonov’s main operation, Lithuanian lender Snoras Bank. Snoras was taken over by the Lithuanian state, in November of that year, and was swiftly declared bankrupt, after a hole of up to €1bn was found in the group's finances.

Russian national Antonov and business accomplice Raimondas Baranauskas were then charged with fraud totalling close to €500mn. The pair ran to the UK claiming they were facing a politically motivated case, but the High Court of London ruled to extradite them to Lithuania in 2015. Antonov then disappeared; reports suggest he is now in Moscow.

The collapse of Snoras and its Latvian subsidiary caused huge financial damage to the two countries, which were forced to make massive compensation payments to depositors under state guarantee schemes. The pair has been chasing Antonov's assets around the globe since.

The scandal also helped strengthen the focus on the risks of Russian links to the Baltic banking sector, and the failures of regulators. Latvia has only recently moved to raise efforts to improve oversight under pressure from the EU and US.

Antonov and Baranauskas claimed that the nationalisation of Snoras took place to silence the Lietuvos Rytas newspaper, which the bank owned, for being critical of the Lithuanian government. Antonov additionally claims that the Lithuanian authorities are after him because he is Russian.

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