Ex-Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov to stand trial on £37million bank fraud charges

Ex- Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov will stand trial on £37million bank fraud charges – despite a failed bid to extradite him from Russia.

The Sunday Mail can reveal that Lithuanian state prosecutors have completed an eight-year global investigation into allegations of embezzlement against Romanov and 11 other officials from the country’s Ukio Bankas.

The former Jambos chief and others have been accused of misappropriating £37million (€43.1million) from the failed bank, which was based in the country’s second city Kaunas.

All 12, including Romanov, have also been charged with misconduct in a public office, money laundering and “setting up and directing legal entities” used to cover up crimes.

It is expected their trial will begin later this year or in early 2022 at Kaunas Regional Court.

The investigation was led by Lithuania’s prosecutor general and the country’s Financial Crimes Investigation Service.

Darius Alinskas, of the prosecutor general’s office, said: “The pre-trial investigation relating to Ukio Bankas, which was exceptional in its complexity and scope, has been completed. A complicated and probably long trial is waiting for us.”

During the eight-year probe, 120 witnesses were interviewed and about 850 bank accounts were examined worldwide.

Suspects are accused of abusing their office to give bank loans to firms under their control.

One loan of €14.6million (£12million) was used to buy Hearts, Belarus soccer club FC Partizan Minsk, Lithuanian basketball club Zalgiris and properties in Russia, the Netherlands and London.

Police in Britain, Isle of Man, Switzerland, Bosnia, Italy, Belarus, Sweden and Russia were asked to help the Lithuanian authorities.

A spokesman for the prosecutor general’s office, said: “The investigation was completed in June and is with the court. There is still an international search for Mr Romanov. But it is possible to have a trial without him.”

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All 12 accused have had their assets frozen pending the trial – including Romanov’s £1million villa in Kaunas. If found guilty, he faces up to seven years in prison.

Romanov, who held 65 per cent of shares in Ukio Bankas, fled to Russia in May 2013 and was granted asylum three months later.

The Lithuanians have failed in a number of bids to extradite him. Laws were introduced in 2018 to allow them to try him in his absence.

Romanov, 73, who has denied any wrongdoing, ran Hearts from 2005-2013, when it was plunged into administration owing Ukio Bankas about £15million.

The club was bought out of administration a year later by owner Ann Budge.

Earlier this year Romanov revealed he was living in a remote village in northern Russia in a converted nuclear submarine he bought for £350,000.

He said: “I lost everything – my private bank, factories, football clubs – but I’ve spent the last of my money on this submarine.”

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