Portsmouth Owner In Court

The Russian owner of Portsmouth Football Club will face an extradition hearing today.

Vladimir Antonov, 36, was arrested by British police last month over a money-laundering investigation in Lithuania.

He and his Lithuanian business partner Raimondas Baranauskas, 53, were held in London on an extradition warrant issued by the Lithuanian authorities in connection with alleged fraud at a bank controlled by Antonov.

Lithuanian prosecutors issued a European Arrest Warrant 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. They were granted conditional bail when they came before Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Both men are due to appear at the same court today.

Snoras Bank was nationalised 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.

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 both said they did not consent to being extradited to Lithuania.

Rachel Scott, defending Antonov, said the Russian businessman had long-standing 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.