London court rules to extradite former Snoras bank owners to Lithuania

Vladimir Antonov, Raimondas Baranauskas
DELFI / Kiril Čachovskij

The two bankers are accused of embezzling assets of the bank that was nationalized in 2011.

Antonov and Baranauskas, who fled to London soon after Lithuania’s central bank opened investigation into the operations of Snoras bank, said they were being used as “scapegoats”.

Their challenge was dismissed by two High Court judges, who said there was no evidence to support their claims.

The arguments dismissed included Antonov’s statement that he, as a Russian national, was being persecuted for political views.

Judges agreed that the decision by the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office to issue a European arrest warrant for Antonov and Baranauskas was justified.

“There is no evidence, either direct or indirect, which would suggest any causal link between the European arrest warrant for Antonov and his Russian citizenship,” the verdict said.

However, former Snoras’ owners still have the option of contesting the decision before UK’s Supreme Court.

They face charges in Lithuania of stripping 470m euros and USD 10m of assets and funds from the bank.

Lithuanian authorities issued a European arrest warrant for the pair in November 2011 after naming them as the main suspects in a pre-trial investigation.

According to lrytas.lt, the judges reproached the lawyers representing Antonov and Baranauskas for dragging the case for so long.

“To put it bluntly, it was a theft. It was the embezzlement of about 0.5 billion euros from Snoras, which made the bank insolvent,” the web portal quoted Johnas Hardy QC, who appeared in court for the Lithuanian government, as saying.

Commenting on the ruling, the head of the Bank of Lithuania, Vitas Vasiliauskas, said he had expected such an outcome.

“I was neither surprised nor particularly delighted by the decision, because it is logical and just – what we expected all along. As a lawyer myself, I’ve always had faith in the basic legal doctrine: potentially criminal actions must be investigated and people proven guilty must be held responsible,” Vasiliauskas said on Wednesday.

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