Lithuania blocks Russian bank

By bne IntelliNews April 20, 2012

Tim Gosling in Prague -

Lietuvos bankas refused permission for Russia's Investtorgbank to open a representative office in Lithuania, it announced in a statement on April 19. The move suggests that the Lithuanian authorities are wary of getting involved with the Russian "banking mafia" tangles that appear to be following in the wake of the catastrophic collapse of Snoras in November.

The central bank statement says that Investtorgbank's application to start operations was rejected on the grounds that the lender failed to provide full information about its shareholders. However, somewhat rarely for a mid-sized Russian company, information on Investtorgbank's shareholder structure appears easily available.

According to, Investtorgbank's core shareholder is board chairman Vladimir Gudkov with 19.19%. Other stakes are owned by Starr International (19.99%), J. C. Flowers & Co. and FPK Capital (19.99%), Vladimir Udaltsov (18.88%), ITB Holding LLC (13.72%), Vitaly Glevich (3.21%), Yaroslav Kalagursky (2.16%) and Igor Cheremisin (2%).

However, Lietuvos bankas said: "The board adopted the resolution, taking into consideration the fact that not all requested data related to the activity of the bank "Investicionnyj torgovyj bank" were submitted: comprehensive information on this bank's shareholders was not submitted. This information is required to assess the bank's (its shareholders') suitability, in order to ensure reliability of the domestic banking system."

That final worry is presumably a reference to Snoras. Formerly Lithuania's fifth biggest bank, the Russian owned lender was nationalized in November after a massive hole was discovered in its balance sheet. Vilnius was forced to find over €1bn to pay compensation to depositors, and is trying to extradite majority shareholder Vladimir Antonov from the UK to face charges.

According to Russian daily Kommersant, Investtorgbank had planned to launch operations in Lithuania in the autumn. The bank's Lithuanian representative Elmaras Milinavichyus said the bank is primarily interested in investment activities, working with securities oriented to small and medium businesses. The newspaper also reports that Investtorgbank was interested in buying Finasta Bank from the state - a Snoras subsidiary specializing in fund management and brokerage.

The wariness of the Lithuanian authorities may well be influenced by disturbing reports earlier this month from across the border in Latvia, suggesting that Riga is at risk of being drawn into a tangled web of intrigue and revenge amongst Russian bankers via the collapse of Snoras' Latvian subsidiary Krajbanka.

According to media in Moscow, Antonov's Baltic banks held large accounts for some of Russia's most powerful oligarchs, and those assets are likely to have gone missing along with the rest. Meanwhile, Russia's AKB Investbank - sold by Antonov in March 2011 to a group of rival Russian bankers - is pursuing Latvian flag carrier airBaltic for a debt that the airline says it has no record of having received. Alongside Snoras and Krajbanka, investigators are looking into missing assets at AKB.

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