Latvia and Lithuania race for Antonov assets

By bne IntelliNews September 4, 2012

Tim Gosling in Prague -

Latvian regulators have officially requested cooperation from nine countries around the globe in what local media is now calling a race with Lithuania to hunt down the assets of former Krajbanka owner Vladimir Anotonov.

Both Riga and Vilnius are hunting down the Russian banker's global assets in a bid to grab as much compensation as possible after they were forced to make huge payouts to depositors. Latvia's fifth largest bank Krajbanka and Lithuanian parent Snoras both collapsed in November following the discovery of over €1bn in missing assets.

However, according to Bloomberg, TV3 cited unnamed officials on September 2 as saying that tentative plans for the two Baltic states to form a joint investigative team earlier this year failed because the pair sees themselves as competitors to recover Antonov's assets. Many of those assets are thought to be at the end of complex chains of ownership, likely involving banks in Belize and Panama that the Russian formerly owned.

At the same time, Riga and Vilnius are also likely to be racing against other parties looking to recoup assets. The Russian press has reported that several major oligarchs held accounts at Krajbanka and Snoras, and as non-residents of the Baltic states they would not have qualified for the deposit insurance schemes run by the government.

Meanwhile, Antonov is currently in the UK fighting extradition to Lithuania on charges that, alongside partner Raimundas Baranauskas, he embezzled LTL1.7bn (€492m), while Snoras has launched a civil suit in the UK seeking GBP395.5m (€500m) in misappropriated assets. Overall, Lithuania found LTL4bn missing from the bank. The affair hit the country hard, raising sovereign borrowing costs when it issued a €1bn Eurobond to help compensate depositors.

In Latvia, the state treasury agreed in November to lend LVL200m (€287m) to the Deposit Guarantee Fund. Riga said in December that it is seeking to recover around LVL150m from Antonov, shortly after freezing assets including a house and 14 cars. The state also seized a 47% stake in flag carrier airBaltic, which it is now looking to offload to a strategic investor.

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