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Lithuania Would Give Ex-Snoras Owner a Fair Trial, Lawyer Says

Nov. 20 (Bloomberg) -- Former Bankas Snoras AB owners Vladimir Antonov and Raimondas Baranauskas, who are fighting extradition to Lithuania to face fraud charges, aren’t part of a “grand conspiracy” that would deny them a fair trial, a lawyer for the country told a London court.

“A politically tainted prosecution recedes into the distance of unlikelihood,” John Hardy, a London-based lawyer for the Lithuanian government, said today in a hearing for the extradition.

Antonov, a Russian, and Lithuanian Baranauskas were detained in London in 2011 after a European arrest warrant was issued on claims the pair forged documents and fixed accounts to siphon at least 1.7 billion litai ($667 million) from the country’s third-biggest bank by deposits, causing its collapse.

Hardy said the case was simple and had been complicated by the defendants’ attempt to prove unfounded political prejudice.

“The Snoras Bank scenario could be a model for a GCSE examination in insolvency and fraud,” Hardy said, in reference to the exams taken by 16-year-old school students in the U.K. “What is that money and what are those securities doing in those accounts?”

Lithuania froze 805 million litai of assets belonging to the former owners of the defunct lender last November. 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 is submitted that there is a real risk that Baranauskas’s trial, punishment and other treatment at the hands of the Lithuanian authorities will be prejudiced on grounds of political opinion,” lawyers for Baranauskas said in court documents. “And by virtue of his association with Antonov, who, as set out above, is of Russian nationality.”

A judgment is expected in the coming weeks, according to lawyers in the case.

To contact the reporter on this story: Suzi Ring in London at sring5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anthony Aarons at aaarons@bloomberg.net

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