FORMER Hearts owner Vladimir Romanov is seeking to become a Russian citizen.
If he is successful it would allow him to avoid extradition to Lithuania, where prosecutors want to put him on trial in a £12.15 million embezzlement case.
His lawyer argued in a Moscow courtroom yesterday that accusations of financial wrongdoing involving his former Ukio Bankas are a political vendetta by his foes in Lithuania.
They are seeking his release pending his application for Russian citizenship.
A constitutional ban on extradition for Russian citizens would mean he could not be deported.
The millionaire was handcuffed to a policeman as he was led to court from a Moscow hospital.
Romanov, 66, reported health problems linked to a heart condition on Monday when he was detained by Russian police in Moscow following a Lithuanian request via Interpol for his extradition.
He addressed the judge Elena Pospelova from a metal cage in the courtroom during a hearing closed to the press and public.
After the hearing, his lawyer, Vladimir Filimonov, said Romanov was fighting both the extradition demand and detention pending its consideration.
“I am sure he won’t be extradited to Lithuania, don’t worry about it,” said the lawyer.
He confirmed the tycoon has applied for Russian citizenship. He “has all rights to hope for protection from Russia”.
Romanov was born in Soviet Russia and must be given time for a decision on his passport application, he said, before adding: “Go online and you will read all about his bank and its problems which were caused for political reasons.
“I believe today we managed to prove that in Lithuania Romanov is pursued for political motives. We submitted some documents proving it. “
It is understood Romanov returned to hospital after the preliminary hearing which lasted two-and-a-quarter hours, including a 30-minute break for him to consult lawyers.
He was held in the courtroom cage with two other detainees – one from Uzbekistan – whose unrelated cases were also before the court.
Romanov left Lithuania – where he has lived since childhood – in May 2013.
He said at the time that he was visiting Moscow on business when he fell ill and decided to stay for treatment.
Prosecutors in Lithuania announced the international search of the businessman in August.
The Lithuanian extradition request was relayed by Interpol to the Russian prosecutor-general.
The case continues.