Russia claims 20 million euros from airBaltic

Legal authorities are seeking to recover in excess of 20 million euros from Latvian airline airBaltic in connection with legal proceedings involving its former shareholder Vladimir Antonov, the LETA newswire reported December 29.

A request for legal assistance was received from Moscow in November and the claim relates to Antonov and his former Russian bank, Investbank, who filed civil cases against airBaltic in 2012 over repayment of an 18.4 million euro loan plus interest and penalties. 

The Latvian Ministry of Justice told LETA the relevant documents would be forwarded to the courts and competent authorities to decide on whether the demands were legally enforceable. 

According to unspecified information available to LETA, in the absence of these judgments, Russia could seek to recover the debt by other methods, for example by seizing airBaltic aircraft and other assets.

Officials at the Transport Ministry and State Chancellery stressed that the legal moves were a civil action brought against airBaltic as a commercial company and were not direct actions brought against the state. 

"As far as we know, there are no claims against the state. If something is required from airBaltic, then this is a matter for the board of directors and board of the company," said Transport Ministry State Secretary Kaspars Ozoliņš.

airBaltic representatives declined to comment.

At the beginning of the millennium, Vladimir Antonov, a high-profile yet apparently hapless Russian businessman bought several banks, most of which subsequently joined Kaliningrad-based Investbank, which Antonov sold to his subordinate in 2011, but two years later, the bank was deprived of an operating license, as the bank found a shortage of funds. On March 4, 2014, the Moscow Commercial Court declared "Investbank" insolvency.

In the Baltic states, Antonov is remembered for overseeing the collapse of two more banks he owned: Snoras in Lithuania and Latvijas Krajbanka in Latvia. He has been involved in lengthy legal proceedings in London ever since to try and avoid Lithuanian attempts to put him on trial for massive fraud.


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