Ablyazov Firms Misled U.K. Court on BTA Fraud, Judge Says

May 1. Bloomberg

By Kit Chellel

Ablyazov Firms Misled U.K. Court on BTA Fraud, Judge SaysCompanies linked to Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive ex-chairman of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank (BTAS), misled a London court and don’t have a valid defense to the lender’s case against them, a judge ruled today.

The eight companies’ appeal against a court ruling that they failed to prove they weren’t tied to Ablyazov’s alleged fraud was rejected by Judge Stephen Tomlinson. The ruling means a court can rule in favor of Almaty-based BTA without the companies being able to defend themselves.

The holding companies, all registered in the British Virgin Islands or the Seychelles, were sued by BTA in one of a series of lawsuits to recover about $1.5 billion the bank claims was stolen by Ablyazov. He is accused of using the offshore firms to participate in sham transactions between 2007 and 2008, Tomlinson said in his judgment.

The court “had indeed been seriously misled” by the companies, Tomlinson said.

Ablyazov fled the U.K. after being sentenced to 22 months in prison for breaching an asset-freezing order and lying under oath. His lawyers said Ablyazov fears for his safety, and that BTA’s lawsuits are politically motivated.

Zoe O’Sullivan, a lawyer representing the companies, didn’t immediately respond to a phone call requesting comment.