Portsmouth Owner On Fraud Charge

The Russian owner of Portsmouth Football Club has appeared in court after being arrested by British police over a money-laundering investigation in Lithuania.

Vladimir Antonov, 36, was held in London yesterday on an extradition warrant issued by the Lithuanian authorities in connection with alleged fraud at a bank he controls.

He and his Lithuanian business partner Raimondas Baranauskas, 53, were granted conditional bail when they came before Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Lithuanian prosecutors issued a European Arrest Warrant for Antonov and Baranauskas on Wednesday after naming them as the main suspects in a pre-trial investigation into how hundreds of millions of pounds in assets were allegedly stripped from Snoras Bank.

City of London Police arrested the pair at Antonov's offices in Bishopsgate, central London, on Thursday November the 24th and held them in custody overnight.

Snoras Bank was nationalised earlier in November after regulators discovered a huge asset shortfall, while regulators in neighbouring Latvia suspended and took control of subsidiary bank Latvijas Krajbanka after an unexpected outflow of funds in recent days.

Lithuania's central bank said that it would have to liquidate Snoras Bank.

Antonov, of Ladbroke Square, Notting Hill, west London, owned more than 60% of Snoras and Baranauskas, who gave an address in Kent which was not read in open court, owned a stake of just over 25% before the bank was nationalised.

The Russian businessman recently made an unsuccessful attempt to buy the Swedish car manufacturer Saab.

Natalie Soule, for the Lithuanian authorities, said Antonov and Baranauskas were accused of being involved in misappropriating more than £200 million from Snoras Bank.

Antonov is charged with misappropriation and forging documents to cover up his theft, the court heard.

Baranauskas is accused of misappropriation, false accounting, abuse of an official position and forgery.

They could face up to 10 years in prison in Lithuania if they are convicted of stealing the money, the court was told.

The pair, who were dressed in dark blue suits over open-necked shirts, both said they did not consent to being extradited to Lithuania.

The court heard that both men had arranged that they would voluntarily be arrested by the Metropolitan Police on November 30 in connection with the Lithuanian authorities' investigation, and were taken by surprise when City of London Police held them yesterday.

Rachel Scott, defending Antonov, said the Russian businessman had longstanding ties to Britain.

He was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK in 2005 and his wife and two young children live with him in Notting Hill.

"He strenuously denies dishonesty in any of his dealings as regards the bank,'' Ms Scott said.

District Judge Caroline Tubbs granted both men conditional bail.

Antonov must pay a security of £75,000, surrender his passport, live and sleep at his London home, and report to Notting Hill police station between 8am and 10am every Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Baranauskas was released on condition that Antonov's wife puts up surety of £250,000 for him and that he surrenders his passport, lives at the address in Kent and reports to Bromley police station daily between 8am and 10am.

The next hearing will be at the same court on December 16.

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