By on November 23, 2011

If GM needed another reason to let Saab die on the vine, it just arrived: Vladimir Antonov, the Russian banking scion, longtime partner with Victor Muller in Spyker, and erstwhile Saab rescuer is wanted in connection with what the UK Press Association [via Google] calls

a pre-trial investigation into an alleged fraud and money laundering case that is threatening to destroy two Baltic banks.

Bertel noted earlier that Snoras, one of Antonov’s banks, had been forced to halt operations, but the issuing of a Europe-wide arrest warrant for Antonov is an even bigger black mark on the Russian financier. And it adds to an already-impressive family resume: Antonov’s father Alexander was shot seven times in a 2009 assassination attempt that has been connected to a Chechen blood feud, and the family has been accused of ties to organized crime by the FBI and Swedish authorities.

All of which puts an intriguing spin on the Saab drama: Snoras lost track of hundreds of millions of dollars, at a time when Antonov was loaning at least $116m to Victor Muller for the Saab rescue. Though it could take years to get to the bottom of the story here, the short-term effect of this scandal is that it gives GM all the incentive in the world to continue dragging its heels. Now that Saab’s “rescue” appears to be less heroic and more of a way to hide allegedly embezzled funds, Saab now has the stink of scandal about it to go with the stink of failure. And it’s sounding like GM is ready to let its former brand simply disappear.

GM’s James Cain tells

We can continue as a supplier to Saab under the right conditions and circumstances but we are not prepared to continue to deliver the 9-4X and we are not prepared to continue to provide licenses to our technology if control of the company is changing… Let me be clear: Saab and Youngman can do whatever they deem best for the company. But if there is one hundred percent takeover of Saab, they will do it without the vehicles we supply, 9-4X, and without GM’s technology

Moreover GM won’t even negotiate with PangDa and Youngman, saying they only talk to Saab. And if the Chinese firms take over Saab, GM will cut the cord. Which leaves Victor Muller with a mess on his lap and (probably) some very curious policemen taking a sudden interest in his finances and the entire Saab deal. Though Saab itself may be approaching its final hour, the Saab story seems to have legs, and investigations could be reavealing new details for years to come.

Also, the Saabinistas that continue  to spam GM’s Facebook page with their pitiful “Let Saab go” campaign  could possibly soon rally behind another cause: “Free Antonov!”


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