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.
Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Renee Zellweger on plastic surgery rumours: 'I'm living a more fulfilling life and I'm thrilled that perhaps it shows'
FCKH8: YouTube reinstates provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing
This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Axe wielding man shot dead after attacking four New York policemen on busy street
- 3 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 4 Jimmy Carr's Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 5 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo