Former Portsmouth FC owner, Vladimir Antonov, accused of £420m bank fraud
Mr Antonov claims he is the victim of an anti-Russian plot by the Lithuanian government and its banking authorities
The former owner of Portsmouth Football Club was the prime mover in a near €500m (£420m) fraud involving his former bank that led to its nationalisation and subsequent bankruptcy, a court has heard.
Russian Vladimir Antonov, 37, and his former business partner Raimondas Baranauskas, 55, are fighting extradition to Lithuania where they are accused of making 33 separate transfers from Snoras Bank to bank accounts they owned or controlled.
The last of the money transfers was made in 2011 as Mr Antonov took control of the south-coast club, described in court as an “economic basket case”. Mr Antonov ran the club for six months before he was forced to resign as he was pursued by Lithuanian prosecutors.
Mr Antonov claims he is the victim of an anti-Russian plot by the Lithuanian government and its banking authorities. He says the government wanted to nationalise the bank and shut down an anti-government newspaper that it part-owned.
Lawyers for the Lithuanian government described the claim as “manifest nonsense” and said the two men had stolen a “colossal amount of money”. “It’s a straightforward – albeit massive – case of alleged fraud of a major bank,” said John Hardy QC, for the government. “Almost half a billion in terms of funds and assets were taken out of it in the previous three years.”
Assets were transferred from Snoras accounts in Vienna to the two men’s Swiss bank accounts, the hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court was told. They are also accused of submitting false documents to the country’s central bank to cover up the transfers.
Authorities issued warrants for their arrests in November 2011 when Mr Antonov quit Portsmouth FC, citing “interference from the government in Lithuania”. “We say in reality, these extradition requests are a legitimate form of interference,” said Mr Hardy.
James Lewis QC, for Mr Antonov, said parliamentarians in Lithuania had questioned from the start whether the case had been designed to silence a critical voice in the media, and said the transferred money was still in the control of the bank and had not disappeared.
The men both face five charges including fraud and theft in Lithuania with some charges carrying sentences of up to 10 years.
The hearing is expected to last up to two weeks.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
Israel-Gaza conflict: Death toll tops 125 after overnight raids as Operation Protective Edge continues
Game of Thrones author George RR Martin says 'f*** you' to fans who fear he will die before finishing Westeros saga
Ian Thorpe gay: Olympic swimmer comes out in Parkinson interview
Supermoon 2014: When and why will the moon look bigger and brighter this summer?
Gaza-Israel conflict: Pro-Palestinian demonstrators take to streets of London, Paris and New York in wave of protests
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
- 1 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 2 Japanese plant experts produce 10,000 lettuce heads a day in LED-lit indoor farm
- 3 War is war: Why I stand with Israel
- 4 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
- 5 The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week