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London court agrees to extradite bankers to Lithuania

Raimondas Baranauskas arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London January 21, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning
Raimondas Baranauskas arrives at Westminster Magistrates Court in central London January 21, 2013. REUTERS/Andrew Winning

VILNIUS (Reuters) - A Russian banker and his Lithuanian business partner can be extradited from Britain to Lithuania in connection with the collapse of the Baltic country's fifth-largest bank, a London court ruled on Monday.

Lithuania seized the bank, Snoras, in November 2011 after the central bank said it found a 1 billion litas ($393 million) hole in its assets, which it later increased to around 4 billion litas.

The Lithuanian General Prosecutor office has said Vladimir Antonov, a former owner of Portsmouth Football Club, and Raimondas Baranauskas are wanted on suspicion of charges including asset embezzlement valued at a combined 1.7 billion litas and document fraud.

They have both denied wrongdoing and are expected to appeal against the ruling handed down by Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Antonov bought the English club in June 2011, but had to step down as its chairman after the club's parent company went into administration following the closure of Snoras, which he owned more than 60 percent of.

Baranauskas, who had a 25 percent of Snoras, left Lithuania for London after the bank's closure, while Antonov had been living there even before it was shut.

The closure also led to the winding up of its subsidiary in neighboring Latvia, Krajbanka.

A spokeswoman for the Lithuanian prosecutors said the extradition request had been approved, which was confirmed by the Westminster court.

No one was immediately available to comment on behalf of Baranauskas, while one of Antonov's lawyers declined to comment.

($1 = 2.5456 Lithuanian litas)

(This version of the story corrects sum in the third paragraph to 1.7 billion litas, not euros)

(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius and Julia Fioretti in London; Writing by Nerijus Adomaitis; Editing by Alison Williams)

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