MOSCOW has confirmed that it will not be extraditing former Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov to Lithuania, as he has been granted asylum in Russia.
The Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s office confirmed Russia’s decision not to extradite Mr Romanov, but added that the prosecution will be continued, and investigators would consider requesting legal assistance from Russia as part of the probe.
Vitas Vasiliauskas, governor of Lithuania’s central bank, told the Baltic News Service (BNS): “[Russia’s] decision came as no surprise to me, as Romanov consistently and purposefully worked in this direction.
“Besides, this gentleman never looked like someone who had the guts to take responsibility for his actions.”
Mr Romanov, the former owner of Ukio Bankas - which collapsed in February 2013 - was arrested in Moscow in April, before being released.
Authorities in Lithuania suspect Mr Romanov of embezzling Ukio’s assets - amounting to 50 million litas (£12 million) - and issued an international arrest warrant in August 2013 amid reports the businessman had fled to Russia.
Lithuania are pursuing Mr Romanov over the alleged ‘misappropriation and embezzlement’ of funds at Ukio Bankas.
The suspicions arose after papers from the Bank of Lithuania showed Mr Romanov had paid the money to himself, and it was claimed he had fabricated a health scare in order to leave his adopted homeland and escape prosecution.
He was released from detention in Moscow in April, after a judge ruled that there were significant ‘irregularities’ with paperwork from the Lithuanian authorities.
His lawyer, Vladimir Filimonov, argued at the time that the financial irregularities probe was based on a ‘political vendetta’ and that the former Hearts owner was applying for Russian citizenship as the country’s constitution forbids the deportation of its citizens.