Investigation leads to missing Baltic millions in Switzerland

Investigative journalism outfit Re:Baltica has released a new report which it says leads to some of the missing millions of disgraced businessman and banker Vladimir Antonov, owner of the Lithuanian bank Snoras, the collapse of which also took down Latvian bank Krajbanka.

"A disgraced Russian banker, an Estonian-born advertising guru and Baltic oil traders kept money in Switzerland away from the prying eyes of the local tax authorities," Re:Baltica says in the report which relies in part from leaked HSBC documents.

"Back when Russian millionaire Vladimir Antonov was still a flamboyant banker, riding high on his Baltic banks and businesses, he wanted to buy a private jet for $3.5 million and use assets belonging to one of his lenders, Snoras Bankas, as a guarantee. That was before his banks were seized amid charges of fraud, which he denies, resulting in civil charges he's fighting from London along with an extradition request from Lithuania.

"The plans for the airplane are just one of the many details involving people connected to the Baltics to come out in the biggest bank data leak in history, or the HSBC files, which showed giant tax evasion schemes the world's second largest bank was happy to encourage and conduct via its Swiss subsidiary.

"The information has prompted tax probes, prosecutions and attempts to recover lost tax revenue around world, though not yet in the Baltics. The Estonian, Latvian and Lithuanian tax authorities have all sought information on their residents contained in the files from their French counterparts. So far only Latvia has been unable to get access to the information."

The data also reveals that Latvia's ABLV bank is linked to significant amounts of money in HSBC's controversial Swiss accounts.

"Almost half of the ($240m) 'Baltic money' in HSBC is related to people from Latvia. About three quarters or 77% of the 'Latvian money' is linked to one account:Volga River One Capital partners L.P.  The files name Olegs Fils and  Ernests Bernis, who regularly feature near the top of Latvia's millionaires list and co-own ABLV, the country's biggest locally owned bank," says Re:Baltica.

Bernis and Fils via a bank spokesman claimed from the total $94.4 in the account only $5 million belonged to ABLV and that all proper audits and declarations had been made.

Antonovs continues to fight extradition from the UK to Lithuania to face charges of massive fraud. UK courts recently said there is no reason Antonovs should not be sent to Lithuania, but he is appealing the decision.

The full report can be read here.

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