First in the Russian law history international trial against foreign country Lithuania to take place in Moscow on September, 22
On September, 22 Moscow Arbitration Tribunal will hold a hearing to consider the lawsuit of Russian businessman Vladimir Antonov, former co-owner and majoritarian of the Lithuanian bank “Snoras “. In his claim against Lithuanian State he asks more than 40 billion rubles of compensation.
First of all, businessman asks to recompense the losses caused by nationalization of bank “Snoras” in 2011, and in second place, pay for the damage of his business reputation caused by the statements of Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite.
Vladimir, please remind us what happened at the end of 2011?
Officially speaking, Lithuanian state nationalized bank “Snoras”. What happened in reality is that the bank was seized, expropriated. Back to November 16, 2011, group of foreign invaders broke into the bank, what is completely against the law of the Republic of Lithuania, and literally unplug bank from the outlet. “Snoras” was absolutely working, profitable bank.
Was the bank showing any signs of bankruptcy?
Of course not! Our bank had one billion litas on correspondent accounts at that moment.
What was the reason then?
This is still remains a mystery for me. Bank was in the process to register new emission which was already paid. In general, no one could expect that events would turn that way.
Nationalization was fast and sudden. By the way, one year later Seimas of Lithuania gathered special Commission, which recognized the fact that nationalization took place with the violation of the law. Despite this statement, deputies never officially recognized it, as at the moment of the vote president supports just got up and left the session.
When the nationalization happened, did you take any measures in the legal field to challenge the nationalization procedure and new laws that was introduced just before?
The fact is that we were instantly cut off from all resources. In the beginning we had the illusion that we could keep part of our assets, but very soon we had realized that everything everywhere was blocked. So we had no money, and without money it was impossible to go to court.
Why did you take the decision to apply to the Moscow arbitration tribunal after almost four years? Every deadline should already have passed!
The limitation period for our case has not passed. If you notify the opponent side in advance, the limitation periods is not applicable anymore. Fortunately we knew it and notified Lithuania in 2012 saying that we would sue them sooner or later for the illegal actions during nationalization of the bank. Why in 2016? I left UK in 2015, had time to rest and to look for the people who could help me to prepare the lawsuit.
Now I have a support from the fund for protection of the rights of Russian investors abroad «Palimpsest». It is them who organized an international colloquium in Geneva where top-ranked lawyers from Germany, USA, Israel, Czech Republic and Russia studied my case and confirmed that I have a right to file new claim and present it to the Russian court. In 2016 Russian legislation has changed, and Russian arbitral tribunal has got the some rights to act on international level.
Since I am registered in Moscow, I have decided to appeal here. Besides bank “Snoras” has some property here. Now these assets are seized and special measures will last until the decision made by the tribunal. Although it would certainly not be enough to cover all the losses, or even the amount we announced in the claim. It is just a start. Bank “Snoras” was the part of a large group, figures will increase, vastly.
Do you mean that there will be new lawsuits to claim the compensation for the whole group?
Of course! We are speaking about Lithuania to compensate about 230-250 billion rubles.
When do you plan to announce it to the court?
Now we are working on the evaluation of the whole group. The updated figure will be announced soon. After that we would use the right to increase the figure in court at any time.
Republic of Lithuania is the main culprit of the total collapse. Besides now my lawyers are preparing to introduce the same claim against Latvia. Latvia recognized me as the owner and main beneficiary of the bank I run there, although it was the affiliate of “Snoras”, and I was only a member of the Board of Directors. In Latvia, our major asset was not the bank, but another successful company – AirBaltic.
Do you mean that you are preparing to put a claim against Latvia?
Not only against Latvia, but also against all these countries who behaved uncivilized in this story. I will not name them for the moment.
Today Lithuanian government is trying to take any measures to avoid this trial. It is even ready to change the laws and allow condemning me in absentia. That is why we decided to organize debates with the advocates and lawyers in Kaliningrad on September, 17 in order to prepare for hearing in Moscow on September, 22. By the way, this event will be open to the journalists. You are welcome.
Will you attend hearings in Moscow personally?
De jure I have a right not to go to the civil trial, and be represented by my lawyers only. But concerning this claim and especially in case Lithuania decides to participate in the process, of course, I’ll go.
Do you start this trial on you personal account just because you want to get your money back? Or you carry the mission to be the pioneer to make use of the new law, which protects of the rights of Russian investors?
Let’s put politics apart. I understand that the Lithuanians are trying to mix up everything, and pretend that such a story can’t be separated from policy of the state. But I do insist — we always tried to stay away from politics. First of all I would like to call for the justice. And money is something I already know how to make.