Russian businessman's bank nationalized in Lithuania

Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov has had his bank nationalized in Lithuania. The businessman is currently staying in London, where he has had with passport withdrawn from him by court order. However, Antonov was released on 75,000 francs bail. Needless to say that people do not have any civil rights without the passport, except for the right to visit pubs for beer.

The British justice has conducted the above-mentioned actions on demand from Lithuanian prosecutors. They accuse the Russian businessman of arranging premeditated bankruptcy of Snoras Bank, Vilnius, Lithuania. When one of the major banks of Lithuania found itself knocked down in 2007, it seemed that only a miracle could help it out of the critical situation. The bank had tens of millions of dollars of unpaid debts.

The Lithuanian market is not very attractive for investments, to say the least. The nation's economy has been declining; the Soviet legacy has been squandered successfully. There are just a few attractive objects for investments in the country. Only confident and venturous investors may run the risk of investing their assets in the country. Vladimir Antonov and his father Alexander Antonov were just like that.

They accepted the offer from the owners of Snoras to buy back the bank, whose assets had been reduced to merely the brand. The Lithuanian authorities approved the sale realizing that there was no other way out, let alone the fact that the bank did not have any other buyers either.

As a result, the bank started to recover speedily. There are hundreds of small banks in the republic today. They are mobile bank offices, in which clients can receive state-of-the-art complex of financial services. This is comfortable for everyone. The Snoras logo has returned to top positions on various rankings.

The Antonovs showed how the modern bank system could be built. They retrieved people's trust to Snoras. However, the statement from Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius at a government session came like a thunderbolt from a clear sky. He stated that the Russians were plotting the bankruptcy of the bank. The Russians, the prime minister added, were transferring the funds on to different accounts.

It goes without saying that the administration of a financial institution is not supposed to coordinate the movement of bank operations with the government. However, the President of Lithuania, Dalia Grybauskaite, supported the Lithuanian prime minister. That was enough to cause too much trouble for the bank. Prosecutors filed a criminal case against Vladimir Antonov on the allegation of premeditated bankruptcy.

Rimvydas Valatka, editor-in-chief of Lietuvos Rytas newspaper believes that it is hard to expect any objective judgments from Dalia Grybauskaite. "She hasn't realized during her stay in the office that the president can not say anything that comes to his or her strange head to the whole world," the editor said.

It is easy to assume that the Lithuanian authorities that nationalized Snoras and now demand Vladimir Antonov's extradition from England pursue certain interests. Now the Antonov precedent may serve a good lesson to other naïve Russian oligarchs, who believe that European laws can protect them in the Baltic States. Now Lithuania has nearly an official right not to let Russian financial organizations access its bank market.

In addition, the nationalization of the bank and the arrest took place at the moment when Vladimir Antonov was trying to sell his Saab shareholding to a Chinese company, observers said. Another large co-owner of Saab - the US-based GM - was doing its best not to let it happen.

The British justice that follows the line of its US ally could not do anything else but arrest the Russian businessman, take his passport and put him under house arrest. Chances for Britain not to deliver the Russian oligarch to Lithuania are slim.

Valeria Smirnova


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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov