Kazakh court says paper guilty of BTA deposit drain Reuters

Kazakh court says paper guilty of BTA deposit drain ReutersALMATY, Sept 9 – A court in Kazakhstan on Wednesday found an opposition newspaper guilty of causing a run on deposits at BTA <BTAS.KZ>, a bank which went into default after its nationalisation this year, the paper’s lawyer said.

The court has ruled that the newspaper, Respublika, must pay BTA 60 million tenge in damages for running a story that had caused the bank to lose 6.8 billion tenge in deposits, lawyer Sergei Utkin told Reuters.

Utkin said Respublika was unable to pay the money and would challenge the ruling.

The government took over BTA in February saying it would have collapsed otherwise and sacked its chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov, accusing him of fraud, a charge he denies.

Respublika, considered by many observers close to Ablyazov, ran stories in which it criticised the move.

In April, BTA went into default, citing creditors’ demands for accelerated debt repayment and large loan losses. It is still in talks with creditors who face losses of over 80 percent in the proposed debt restructuring deal.

Rights groups have stepped up criticism of Kazakhstan’s treatment of independent media and journalists this year, as the Central Asian country prepares to chair the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe. (Reporting by Olga Orininskaya; writing by Olzhas Auyezov; editing by Philippa Fletcher)