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Snoras Ex-Owners Used Bank for Gain, U.K. Court Claim Says

Bankas Snoras AB’s former owners siphoned away money through transfers to personal accounts, collateral for loans, and fake real estate deals using a web of offshore entities, the bank said in a London court filing.

Vladimir Antonov and Raimondas Baranauskas used banks including HSBC Private Bank SA and Julius Baer & Co AG to transfer Snoras assets as collateral for loans to companies owned by or associated with Antonov, the lender said in a June 21 filing made public yesterday. Some of the loans weren’t repaid and the securities were forfeited, it said.

Bankas Snoras, once Lithuania’s third-biggest lender by deposits, is suing its former owners for 492 million euros ($613.5 million). They were detained in London in November after Lithuanian authorities issued a European arrest warrant on claims they forged documents and fixed accounts to siphon at least 1.7 billion litas ($610 million) from Snoras, causing its collapse. Both men deny the claims and are fighting them.

Brendan McNamara, a spokesman for London-based HSBC Group Plc, and Kevin Gold, a lawyer from Mishcon de Reya in London representing the men, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Antonov had some of the Vilnius-based bank’s securities transferred to his personal account, and about 40,000 euros of that may have been used to make a mortgage payment on a chalet in France, the claim said, citing a Lithuanian Central Bank report. Antonov, who is Russian, says the case may be politically motivated and believes his life may be in danger if he returns. They are fighting their extradition in a pending London case.

‘Commercially Unjustifiable’

The pair had companies domiciled in the Dominican Republic, Cayman Islands, Cyprus, Belize and the Bahamas to evade detection, according to the claim.

Antonov instructed Snoras to pay “excessive and commercially unjustifiable price” for properties in Riga, Latvia, from companies owned by or connected to him, losing the bank at least 17 million euros, according to the filing.

In one deal, Cyprus-based and Antonov-linked Bandiron Corporation Limited bought the headquarters of Latvijas Krajbanka AS from Red Projekts SIA for 5.9 million lati ($10.6 million), then sold it three days later to Snoras for 23.2 million lati, the claim said.

Part of the money that was alleged to have been transferred went to AirBaltic AS, a Latvian airline partly owned by a company associated with Antonov, the claim said.

Money was also transferred from a Swiss fund owned by Antonov to a Latvijas Krajbanka AS account for Gemini Investment Fund Limited, the claim said. Gemini is a company owned by, or controlled by or connected with Antonov, according to the claim. Gemini had lent Swedish Automobile NV, Saab Automobile’s Dutch owner, a 25 million-euro loan in June 2011.

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