Scottish Premier League

Police hunt ex-Hearts owner Romanov

Vladimir Romanov chairman of Hearts
Former Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov is wanted by Lithuanian police.
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Former Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov could be facing up to seven years in prison if he is found guilty of "squandering" bank assets in Lithuania.

The Lithuanian police are currently hunting for Romanov, who has reportedly left for Russia, due to accusations that he took an unspecified amount of money from the bank he helped found, Ukio Bankas.

The bank, which is insolvent, owns 30 per cent of Hearts shares and is owed £15m by the Scottish side. The bank's administrator recently dismissed bids for Hearts as unacceptable and said he may attempt to liquidate the club and use the bank's security over Tynecastle to recoup some of the money it is owed.

Vilma Mazone, who works for the General Prosecutor's Office of the Republic of Lithuania, said in an email to the Press Association: "V Romanov has been recognised as a suspect and is suspected of having squandered high-value property belonging to the bank Ukio Bankas.

"We cannot state yet the exact value of the squandered property, as its amount has not been established yet. Laws of the Republic of Lithuania provide that a person who has committed the above mentioned criminal offence shall be punished by imprisonment for a term of up to seven years.

"As there were reasonable doubts regarding (the) whereabouts of V Romanov, on 4 July the prosecutor passed the decision to announce a search for him. On the same day, that decision was forwarded to the police for execution."

Romanov bought a majority stake in Hearts in 2005 but lost control of the club as his personal finances collapsed over the last year. Another insolvent firm previously controlled by Romanov, UBIG, is owed more than £8m by Hearts and is the club's major shareholder but that debt is unsecured.

The club's total debt is around £29.5m according to administrators BDO.

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