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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lithuanian Court to Extradite Yukos-Linked Russian Banker

VILNIUS, Lithuania -- A Lithuanian court gave prosecutors the go-ahead on Thursday to extradite Igor Babenko, a Russian banker tied to the beleaguered Yukos oil company, to his home country to face criminal charges.

Russian prosecutors have accused Babenko, 55, of money laundering and squandering 333 million rubles ($11 million) over the last three years.

They say Babenko used his official powers to appropriate and squander money from company Stavropolkrajgaz and the Yukos-owned Menatep bank. Babenko ran a local branch of the bank, the Baltic News Service said.

Babenko denies any wrongdoing and told the Vilnius district court he believed he was "a victim of a political vendetta in Russia."

"My only guilt is the fact that I was heading a bank office that had ties to Yukos, formerly owned by Mikhail Khodorkovsky," Babenko said. "The officers who opened the criminal investigation and issued the international arrest warrant want to finish me off."

Babenko was detained in Vilnius in June. The court postponed his extradition last month, saying prosecutors had not presented enough evidence to warrant sending Babenko back to Russia.

But the court agreed to the extradition after Russian prosecutors provided additional evidence implicating Babenko.

"Lithuania has agreements with Russia regulating judicial cooperation on criminal matters," read a statement issued by the court. "In this case, all requests for extradition were met, and the suspect may be handed over to Russia."

Babenko's lawyer, Vitoldas Petravicius, said he would appeal the ruling.