HEARTS owner Vladimir Romanov is taking on both the Lithuanian state and its central bank in a bid to regain control over his company Ukio Bankas, which went into administration earlier this year.
Romanov issued the lawsuit against the country in which he lives and its main bank in the middle of last month, but details have only recently been confirmed by the Lithuanian authorities. Gintautas Stalnionis, the spokesperson for the Vilnius Regional Court, confirmed that the case had been filed on 14 March.
Romanov was the largest shareholder in Ukio Bankas, a former shirt sponsor of the Tynecastle club. The bank went into administration on 12 February.
The date of the initial court hearing has yet to be confirmed, and it is uncertain whether the businessman will go ahead with the action. He pleaded poverty after Ukio went administration, suggesting he might have to revert to his old trade as a taxi driver. Since then his access to funds has been further restricted by a court order freezing the assets of Ubig, Hearts’ parent company.
Romanov’s writ is the latest blow in a fight for control of Lithuania’s financial sector between the state and a number of private individuals.
The dissolution of the Soviet Union more than two decades ago briefly allowed something approaching a free-for-all to develop, but more recently the central bank and the government have tried to clamp down on actions they regard as rogue behaviour.
According to Lithuanian sources, Romanov accepts that Ukio was in difficulties but disputes the decision by the central bank to put the firm into administration. He says he and the bank had agreed a recovery programme for Ukio and that most of the measures had been carried out by the time administration was forced on Ukio.
Snoras, another Lithuanian bank, was put into administration in 2011. The central bank had concerns then about Ukio, but is thought to have decided that taking two banks off the market at the same time would have had too severely depressive an effect on the Baltic state’s economy. It was then that what Romanov terms the recovery plan for Ukio was put in place.
In his lawsuit, Romanov is asking the court to reverse the central bank’s decision to put Ukio into administration and transfer its “good” assets to another Lithuanian bank, Siauli. He is also seeking an unspecified amount in damages.