Vladimir Antonov, the former majority shareholder at collapsed Lithuanian bank Snoras, claims he is preparing to sue Vilnius in a New York court over lost assets. The plan looks to be a last ditch attempt at bravado to convince the UK to refuse a Lithuanian extradition request for Antonov and business partner Raimondas Baranauskas.
"Baranauskas (the former president of Snoras) and I decided to leave for the UK because we firmly believe we can prove our innocence," Antonov said in an interview with Lietuvos rytas. "I promise to fight until the end. I am already initiating a civil lawsuit against Lithuania over lost investments. The dispute will be considered in New York."
Formerly also the owner of Latvia's sixth largest bank, Krajbanka, which collapsed shortly after its Lithuanian parent, Antonov added that his lawyers warned the Lithuanian Finance Ministry in the spring that they would sue. "Pursuant to the law, we have to wait for six months. If I am not mistaken, six months will have passed in mid-October," he said.
Antonov's move is part of an attempt to cast doubt about the veracity of the claims against him as a UK court considers his extradition case. In connection with a separate civil case to the criminal charges, the UK court has already frozen assets worth around €500m on the request of Snoras' bankruptcy administrator.
After authorities seized Snoras in November following the discovery of a massive hole in its balance sheet, Lithuania had the bank declared bankrupt in December. Antonov and Baranauskas have been unable to explain the disappearance of LTL4bn (€1.158bn) from the bank, and Lithuania and Latvia - which found a hole of several hundred million at Krajbanka - are racing each other to track down and seize Antonov's assets around the globe.
For his part, Antonov claims that the whole case is politically motivated, with Vilnius out to get him because a newspaper he owned was critical of the government. That's a clear attempt to join the many Russians that have found shelter from extradition in the UK due to London's view that the justice system in Moscow is unreliable. However, Lithuania, as a fellow member of the EU, should - theoretically at least - have an easier task at grabbing their man.
Russian media hint that the real danger Antonov fears is the reach of other Russian oligarchs who were said to have parked large amounts of cash with his twin Baltic banks, and who are now out of pocket having missed out on the state deposit insurance schemes die to citizenship, and/or obscure ownership.
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