Warrant out for Vladimir Antonov

Updated: November 23, 2011, 9:52 AM ET
Associated Press

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- Lithuanian prosecutors issued a European arrest warrant for the Russian owner of the Portsmouth Football Club in connection with hundreds of millions of dollars in assets stripped from a local bank, they said Wednesday.

Prosecutors said Vladimir Antonov and his Lithuanian partner Raimundas Baranauskas are the main suspects in a pretrial investigation into an alleged fraud and money laundering case that is threatening to destroy two Baltic banks.

Lithuania's Snoras Bank was nationalized last week after regulators discovered a huge asset shortfall, while Latvian regulators suspended and took control of Latvijas Krajbanka due to an unexpected outflow of funds over recent days.

Antonov, 36, owned 68 percent of Snoras before it was nationalized and had controlled Latvijas Krajbanka through a 60 percent stake owned by Snoras.

Antonov is believed to spend most of his time in England, while Baranauskas, who held just over 25 percent in Snoras, is also abroad.

The Russian businessman recently undertook an unsuccessful attempt to buy out the Swedish automaker Saab but was prevented from doing so by European and Swedish authorities, who criticized Antonov for a lack of transparency about the origins of his capital.

Fallout from the banks' woes was spreading. Lithuania's Olympic committee warned that it might not be able to send its athletes to London next summer since its funds were deposited in Snoras.

Raimonds Pauls, a Latvian pianist well known throughout the former Soviet Union, reportedly had some $1.35 million in various currencies in Latvijas Krajbanka. He is likely only to get a tenth back since Latvia guarantees deposits only up to 100,000 euros.

Latvians on Wednesday lined up at Krajbanka cash machines, which had been closed the day before, to withdraw the daily limit of $100.

Leaders and regulators have said that there is no systemic risk from the two banks' insolvency given their average size. Snoras was Lithuania's fifth largest bank by assets, while Latvijas Krajbanka was Latvia's sixth largest by deposits.

Since Lithuania's government now owns Snoras, it essentially controls the fate of Latvijas Krajbanka.

However, Janis Brazovskis, an official with Latvia's Finance and Capital Markets Commission, said Wednesday that Latvijas Krajbanka was unlikely to survive the current troubles given the shortage of cash to cover its liabilities.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press