VILNIUS Feb 18 Lithuania's central bank decided
on Monday permanently to close the bank belonging to the main
owner of troubled Scottish soccer club Hearts and start talks
with another bank on taking it over.
The authorities last week restricted operations at Ukio
Bankas and appointed an administrator after it ran
into financial troubles. The central bank has said it was
seeking a solution for Ukio's future.
The central bank said in a statement on Monday that it had
decided the best solution was to remove Ukio's licence for good
and start talks with rival Siauliu Bankas on taking
over Ukio's assets and liabilities. Siauliu is 20 percent owned
by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
The central bank said such a solution would "better protect
the confidence of the shareholders in the stability and
reliability of the banking system" and be better than making
Ukio is owned by businessman Vladimir Romanov, who is also
the main shareholder in Hearts.
Edinburgh-based Hearts, one of Scotland's top soccer clubs,
has debt of about 24 million pounds ($38 million) and in
December agreed to pay 1.5 million pounds to settle a tax
dispute. Hearts also cleared a separate tax bill of 450,000
pounds which lifted the immediate threat of liquidation.
Fans have set up a foundation to try to save the club and
have asked Romanov to let them take it over.
The club has distanced itself from the troubles at Ukio,
saying the shareholding in the soccer club was via a completely
separate investment company. But it also said Ukio provided
banking services and debt to the club.