Kazakh Lender BTA Wins Dismissal of Ablyazov’s Conspiracy Claims in U.K.
May 10. Bloomberg
By Erik Larson
BTA Bank, the bailed-out Kazakh lender seeking to recover assets for international creditors, can continue its $4 billion fraud lawsuit against ousted Chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov, a U.K. judge ruled.
Judge Nigel Teare in Bristol, England, today rejected Ablyazov’s claim that the case is a veiled attempt by Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev to eliminate political rivals. Nazarbayev was re-elected last month with 95.5 percent of the vote, adding five more years to his two-decade rule.
“If the consequence of that case succeeding is that the president of Kazakhstan is assisted in eliminating Mr. Ablyazov as a political opponent,” then it is a “natural consequence” of the lawsuit, Teare said in the judgment.
BTA claims Ablyazov, who fled Kazakhstan for London, conspired to siphon money from the Almaty-based bank through a series of fake loans and share sales before it was bailed out during the financial crisis. The lender, whose creditors include Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS), Commerzbank AG (CBK) and Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), later defaulted on $12 billion of debt.
A message left for Ablyazov’s spokesman, Locksley Ryan of RLF Partnership Ltd. in London, wasn’t immediately returned.
BTA last year issued 10-year “recovery notes” to creditors for about $5 billion of bad loans as part of its debt restructuring. The lender will share with creditors, on a 50-50 basis, recoveries from impaired assets, including damages from the U.K. lawsuits.
Ablyazov’s lawyers have argued BTA’s nationalization was politically motivated because their client was part of the “democratic opposition” to Nazarbayev. Similar conspiracy claims by Ablyazov were dismissed by Teare in February.
BTA in December won a U.K. appeals court ruling forcing Ablyazov to place his assets, estimated at $5 billion, into receivership. The bank said Ablyazov didn’t disclose all his business deals, including ownership in a Moscow skyscraper project.
Ablyazov was arrested in 2003 and imprisoned on “trumped up” charges that resulted in the seizure of his assets, his lawyers have said. He was also tortured in custody and survived two assassination attempts, they say.
Kazakh prosecutors issued arrest warrants for Ablyazov and Roman Solodchenko, BTA’s one-time chief executive officer, in March 2009 on suspicion they embezzled money and laundered it through loans to fake companies. Both men denied the charges.