Antonov’s tricks continue

  • 2011-12-22
  • Staff and wire reports

Vladimir Antonov emerges as the real owner.

RIGA - The former Latvijas Krajbanka owner, Vladimir Antonov, has admitted that Andrey Rudeshko was the front man for his interests in airBaltic, reports LETA. The TV3 show ‘Neka personiga’ (Nothing Personal) reports that there are now concerns that Antonov could try and claim 50 million euros from the Latvian government in connection with the airline, as this was the amount previously invested through his offshore company and which made its way into airBaltic.

This conclusion is made from the statements by Russian banker Alexander Antonov, Vladimir Antonov’s father, who had arrived in Riga to meet with Latvian authorities and attempt to influence the fate of the bankrupt Krajbanka. It was an offshore company of the younger Antonov that had lent 50 million euros to former airline president Bertolt Flick’s Baltijas Aviacijas Sistemas (BAS). According to the agreement, BAS then invested this sum in air- Baltic. Meanwhile, Antonov in his Dec. 16 interview after a British court’s hearing on his extradition to Lithuania, revealed important details about airBaltic.

Antonov explained that Flick, even though he was still the airline’s president, did not really manage it over the past year, since he was too involved in a criminal process against him launched by the Corruption Prevention Bureau. AirBaltic was operating on its own, claims Antonov. “From September, or even August 2010, we became the sole financial partner of airBaltic, who actually attempted to stabilize the airline’s finances and develop at least some kind of a business model. In May 2011, the airline’s losses exceeded 2 million euros a month.

After then-Economy Minister Artis Kampars’ statements, [losses rose] to 4 million lats (5.7 million euros) a month,” he asserted. It may, however, have been Antonov’s purported business model and management which drove air- Baltic into deeper losses and to the verge of bankruptcy. Antonov is not known for his skills in the airline business. His training is in banking. During the last year of operations, in which Antonov claims to have been “stabilizing” the airline, losses worsened, from 35.9 million lats in 2010, to an expected 60 million lats for 2011, which the Latvian government will have to cover.

Vladimir Antonov said that, in addition to Krajbanka loans, he had “invested” at least 50 million euros in airBaltic through this offshore company. He now believes his company has the right to demand the socalled investment back. However, the loan was to BAS, not to airBaltic. For Antonov, much will depend upon how the loan agreement between his offshore company and Flick was written. Antonov’s claim on the 50 million euros therefore likely ends with Flick, possibly with BAS, but probably not with the Latvian government. And with BAS possibly bankrupt, he will have little chance of recovering much of it. Before the state took over BAS’ shares, the airline’s majority shareholder, the state of Latvia, held 52.6 percent of shares. Flick owned 50 percent in BAS, which was the airline’s private shareholder, which controlled 47.2 percent of shares.

The owner of the Bahamasbased company Taurus Asset Management Fund Limited, which owns a 50 percent stake in BAS, was Russian resident Rudeshko. Antonov benefited from another delay in the court’s decision on extradition proceedings to send him back to Lithuania to face embezzlement charges on the bankrupt Snoras bank. On Dec. 16, a British court decided to postpone its decision on the extradition of the former owners of Lithuanian bank Snoras, Antonov and Raimondas Baranauskas to Lithuania. The next court hearing will be held on Jan. 30. On Nov. 23, Lithuanian Prosecutor General Darius Valys signed a European arrest warrant for Antonov and Baranauskas. The bankers were arrested the next day. Both former Snoras bank executives are charged with large-scale misappropriation of assets and document forgery. Baranauskas is also suspected of fraudulent bookkeeping and abuse of authority. On Nov. 25, the court decided to release both bankers on bail.