Banks: The crash that has rocked Lithuania
25 November 2011
“Gamblers or victims?” wonders the front-page ofVieidas, commenting on the two principle shareholders of Snoras, Lithuanian Raimondas Baranauskas and Russian Vladimir Antonov, the millionaire owner of Portsmouth FC in the UK. Both men were arrested in London on 24 November, following the issuing of an arrest warrant by Lithuanian authorities investigating the collapse of Snoras, which was the country’s fifth largest bank.
The pair, who are suspected of siphoning off 3.4 billion litai (close to a billion euros) from the bank and 100 million lats (close to 144 million euros) from its subsidiary Latvijas Krajbanka, Latvia’s sixth largest bank, could face ten years in prison. Snoras, which was nationalised — a first in the history of post-Soviet Lithuania, points out Vieidas — on 16 November following the discovery of huge discrepancies in its books, has now filed for bankruptcy.
The magazine reports that the procedure is contested by representatives of customers of the bank, who claim that it is “neither transparent, or fair, or rational.” Latvia has also opened an inquiry into Krajbanka and suspended its license to operate in the run-up to a probable liquidation. Both announcements prompted panic among Snoras and Krajbanka customers who have rushed to branches to withdraw their savings.