International

Ex-Pompey owner flees UK 'fearing for life'

2015-07-07 12:39
Portsmouth logo (File)

London - A Russian businessman who used to own Portsmouth Football Club and is wanted in Lithuania for fraud, has fled Britain in fear for his life, his lawyer told AFP on Monday after a London court revoked his bail.

"I confirm Mr (Vladimir) Antonov has fled the jurisdiction due to fears for his life," his lawyer, Karen Todner, said in an e-mail, specifying he had left Britain.

"Bail was revoked," Todner said after a hearing at Westminster Magistrates' Court.

Antonov is the former owner of Portsmouth, now languishing in League Two, the fourth tier of English football.

He and his Lithuanian business partner, Raimondas Baranauskas, are accused of stripping assets and funds worth 400 million (565 million euros, $622 million) from a leading Lithuanian bank, Snoras, when it was nationalised in 2011.

The pair lost a bid to avoid extradition in May.

They claimed they were being used as "scapegoats" and said the extradition request was "politically motivated", but two judges at London's High Court dismissed their challenge.

Antonov was the chairman of Snoras's board of observers and Baranauskas was chief executive and chairman of the board until the bank was nationalised by the Lithuanian government in November 2011.

They are also accused of submitting false documents to the Lithuanian central bank in a bid to cover their tracks.

Antonov and Baranauskas claimed they had been targeted by the Lithuanian government, which had been criticised by a newspaper owned by the bank.

Antonov purchased Portsmouth, then in the second-tier Championship, in June 2011.

But he stepped down the following November when his company, Convers Sports Initiatives, went into administration following his arrest over the fraud allegations.

Portsmouth subsequently went into administration in February 2012, prompting a 10-point deduction that contributed to their relegation. They were relegated again in 2013.

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