“I do not consider that either” of the men “will be prejudiced at trial” in Lithuania, District Judge John Zani said at Westminster Magistrates’ Court today. The men have seven days to appeal the ruling.
Antonov, a Russian, and Baranauskas, of Lithuania, were detained in London in 2011 after a European arrest warrant was issued over allegations the pair forged documents and fixed accounts to siphon more than 1.7 billion litai ($670 million) from the country’s third-biggest bank by deposits, causing its collapse. The Lithuanian government has spent the last two years trying to extradite the men from the U.K. to face the charges.
Lithuania froze 805 million litai of assets belonging to them in November 2012. Antonov, who is accused of using the money to buy luxury homes, cars and a U.K. soccer team, has argued the cases may be politically motivated due to articles in newspapers he owned.
“It’s not part of my function to decide or to knowingly express any opinion as to the guilt or innocence” of Antonov or Baranauskas in relation to the charges against them, Zani said. He said he was “not satisfied” that the proceedings had been brought because Antonov is a Russian national or that they were politically motivated.
A group of protesters stood outside the court today waving banners with messages including “Vladimir Antonov -- criminal refugee!” and “Baranauskas, come and face your creditors!”
James Lewis, a lawyer for Antonov, and John Jones, a lawyer for Baranauskas, didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.
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