Former Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov will face £ 37million on bank fraud charges – despite an unsuccessful attempt to extradite him from Russia.
The Sunday Mail can reveal that Lithuanian prosecutors have completed an eight-year global investigation into allegations of embezzlement against Romanov and 11 other Ukio Bankas officials in the country.
The former Jambos chief and others have been accused of embezzling £ 37million (€ 43.1million) from the failing bank, based in Kaunas, the country’s second largest city.
All 12, including Romanov, have also been charged with misconduct in public office, money laundering and “creation and management of legal entities” used to cover up crimes.
Their trial is expected to begin later this year or early 2022 in the Kaunas Regional Court.
The investigation was carried out by the Lithuanian Prosecutor General and the Lithuanian Financial Crime Investigation Service.
Darius Alinskas, Attorney General’s Office, said: “The preliminary investigation into Ukio Bankas, which was exceptional in its complexity and scale, has been completed. A complicated and probably long trial awaits us.
During the eight-year investigation, 120 witnesses were interviewed and approximately 850 bank accounts were examined around the world.
The suspects are accused of having abused their functions to grant bank loans to companies under their control.
A loan of 14.6million euros (£ 12million) was used to buy Hearts, Belarusian football club FC Partizan Minsk, Lithuanian basketball club Zalgiris and properties in Russia, the Netherlands. Down and London.
Police from Great Britain, Isle of Man, Switzerland, Bosnia, Italy, Belarus, Sweden and Russia have been called upon to assist the Lithuanian authorities.
A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said: “The investigation was completed in June and is in court. There is still an international search for Mr. Romanov. But it is possible to have a trial without him.
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All 12 defendants have had their assets frozen pending trial, including Romanov’s £ 1million villa in Kaunas. If found guilty, he faces up to seven years in prison.
Romanov, who owned 65% of Ukio Bankas’ shares, fled to Russia in May 2013 and was granted asylum three months later.
The Lithuanians have failed in a number of offers to extradite him. Laws were introduced in 2018 to allow them to try him in his absence.
Romanov, 73, who has denied any wrongdoing, ran Hearts from 2005 to 2013 when he was immersed in administration and owed Ukio Bankas around £ 15million.
The club was bought out of administration a year later by owner Ann Budge.
Earlier this year, Romanov revealed he was living in a remote village in northern Russia in a converted nuclear submarine he bought for £ 350,000.
He said: “I lost everything – my private bank, my factories, my football clubs – but I spent the last of my money on this sub.”