Antonov & Anor v Prosecutor Generals Office Lithuania [2015] EWHC 1243 (Admin)

Eab_logoOn 3 July 2015, it was reported that Vladimir Antonov, the former owner of Portsmouth Football Club, and his business partner Raimondas Baranauskas, are believed to have fled the United Kingdom.

The men failed in their appeal before the High Court in May 2015, to overturn a ruling that they should be extradited to Lithuania. On 6 July 2015, Westminster Magistrates’ Court revoked their bail, and the UK issued European Arrest Warrants (EAWs) for their arrest. Reports are here (paywall) and here.

Antonov & Anor v Prosecutor Generals Office Lithuania [2015] EWHC 1243 (Admin)

In 2012, two ‘accusation’ European Arrest Warrants (EAW) were issued for the arrest of Mr Antonov and Mr Baranauskas, following the controversial nationalisation of the Lithuanian bank, Snoras, which the pair controlled.

Mr Antonov and Mr Baranauskas are accused of stripping assets and funds in excess of £396m from Snoras between 2008 and 2011, which they then allegedly concealed from the Lithuanian central bank.

On 4 May 2015, the High Court dismissed the appeal of Mr Antonov and Mr Baranauskas, against extradition to Lithuania, to face allegations of abuse of office, theft, forgery and fraudulent management of accounts. The judgment can be found here.

Five grounds of appeal were advanced, centred on: (1) whether the EAW, issued for Mr Antonov’s arrest, was issued on the basis of his nationality, or the EAWs issued for both appellants were issued on the grounds of their political opinion; (2) whether the trial was prejudiced because of the nationality and political opinion of both appellants; (3) the apparent risk of assassination to Mr Antonov violating Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR); (4) whether prison conditions in Lithuania breach Article 3 ECHR; and (5) a procedural defect relating to a witness.

Lord Justice Aikens and Mr Justice Simon held, dismissing the appeal:

  1. There was no evidence, direct or indirect, to show a causal link between the issuing of the EAW to prosecute Mr Antonov and his Russian nationality. There was also no evidence of a political stance or belief on the part of Mr Antonov and Mr Baranauskas, as a reason for the EAW being issued or prosecution. Nationalisation of Snoras, and a related shareholding in an anti-government newspaper, was irrelevant. No bar to extradition under s. 13(a) Extradition Act 2003 (EA 2003)).
  2. There was no evidence to suggest a serious possibility that Mr Antonov and Mr Baranauskas would be prejudiced at their trial on account of their nationality or political opinion. No bar to extradition under s. 13(b) EA 2003. Neither Mr Antonov nor Mr Baranauskas had indicated any political opinion. Hilali applied: the burden is on the requested person to show the link between the issue of the EAW and the particular “extraneous consideration” relied on.
  3. For reasons provided in a closed judgment, Mr Antonov’s contention that extradition should be barred under Article 3 ECHR, in view of the risk of his assassination and serious injury, was rejected.
  4. There was also no real risk that the pre-trial prison conditions facing Mr Antonov and Mr Baranauskas in Lithuania would breach Article 3 ECHR. Evidence advanced was “sparse”. Assurances by Lithuania as to remand conditions, the adequacy of the cell size, and provision for individual cells, should be accepted. The possibility of police cell detention was not enough to found a real risk that the threshold would be reached.
  5. The reasons of the District Judge were perfectly adequate, and he dealt properly with the procedural defect of a witness for the Lithuanian judicial authority consulting computer notes whilst being cross-examined. The issue was “peripheral” and he had the discretion to refuse disclosure.

Mr Antonov and Mr Baranauskas have sought leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.

July 2015 Development

On 3 July 2015, solicitors for Mr Antonov issued a statement confirming that he had left the UK, “due to fears for his life”. The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) further confirmed that both Mr Antonov and Mr Baranauskas were missing.

On 6 July 2015, Westminster Magistrates’ Court revoked conditional bail for both men. Any bail security paid into the court, or surety, is therefore likely to have been forfeited as a result. The UK has also issued EAWs for their arrest.

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