FORMER Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov has vanished, according to the Lithuanian Government, who admit they don’t have a clue where he is.
A warrant has been issued for the ex-Tynecastle chief to return to his country to face prosecution from Lithuanian authorities for non-payment of debts when his Ukio Bankas went bust, for which could serve seven years in prison if found guilty.
However, the man who was once the most controversial figure in Scottish football appears to have disappeared entirely.
He was last seen in Russia, where he was reportedly receiving treatment in a Moscow hospital for a stroke, and was then pictured sunning himself on a Russian beach – a photo which caused outrage in Lithuania.
Now Lithuanian authorities have admitted there is no point asking their Russian counterparts to deport him because they don’t know whether he is still in the country.
A spokesman for Lithuania’s General Prosecutor admitted: “Romanov’s presence in Russia has not been confirmed by any official document.
“So we cannot provide a legal reason to go to this country and ask for international legal assistance. We continue to carry out all legal avenues to bring Mr Romanov to face the public prosecutor.”
Matters have been complicated further because the Russians have refused to even confirm whether Romanov was ever in the vast country. Visa rules state that a foreign citizen must not spend more than three months in Russia, but it is now five months since Romanov was reportedly receiving treatment in Moscow.
The Russian Embassy in Lithuania has refused to respond to local media’s requests for confirmation he has left Russia. And Lithuanian authorities have been led to believe that the 66-year-old has fled Europe.
Romanov, the chairman of Ubig Investments, which holds a majority shareholding in Lithuanian bank Ukio Bankas, took control of Hearts in 2005.