Dominica bank owner arrested in London on fraud and money laundering charges
By Thomson Fontaine
December 06, 2011 9:50 a.m.
Roseau, Dominica (TDN) —- Vladimir Antonov, who had a majority stake in Lithuanian bank Snoras and his business partner Raimondas Baranauskas, were arrested in London on November 23, and charged in connection with a Lithuanian extradition warrant. The two were subsequently released on bail.
The arrest warrant lists the two as suspects in regard to alleged ‘fraudulent accounting, forgery of documents, abuse of authority, misappropriation of property, money laundering and other criminal offences committed by the bank Snoras.’ Forensic auditors are reported to have found more than $1.4 billion missing. The government of Lithuania has also expressed an interest in seizing their assets, both in Lithuania and abroad.
Antonov, 36 who up until Monday was the owner of British football club Portsmouth also had a controlling stake in the Dominican Bank Banco Transatlantico. The offshore bank formerly called Griffon bank is housed at the government Headquarters in Roseau, Dominica, and also has a sister branch in Panama Banco Transatlantico S.A.
Last year it was reported that the combined assets of the two banks were around USD $7 billion. Dimitrijus Apockinas who is the Managing Director of the bank in Dominica was recently quoted as saying “our success is confirmed by the fact that in March 2005 I sold the controlling stake in the bank (Griffon) to a strategic investor, who owns one of the leading banking groups in Eastern Europe.”
Antonov who is Russian is also reported to have a huge stake in the West Indies Power Company (WIPC) whose CFO is Dimitrijus Apockinas. Last year, WIPC secured a license from the Dominica government to engage in geothermal drilling on the island. The company has also been accused of paying bribes to the Dominican government in exchange for securing the license.
As news on the arrest of Antonov and the nationalization of Snoras Bank spread, worried depositors of Banco Transatlantico scoured the web desperately trying to find any information on their deposits.
Many complained that they have not been able to withdraw any of their money and others reported calling the Dominica telephone number only to receive a recording informing them that the bank had closed. Several of those reporting on the popular Panamanian blog indicated that they no longer had online access to their deposits.
Some of the worried customers wondered aloud if the government of Dominica would do anything to guarantee their deposits. In response a blogger cynically noted: “How did you end up banking in a small nation of 70000 people where they sell passports over the counter, the entire core and system is built on corruption and on top of this with a unit owned by a Russian mobster who is just slightly over 35 years old.”
Some commentators in England have criticized the courts’ decision to grant bail to Antonov suggesting that he may use his other passports, including possibly one issued by the Dominican government to leave the country.