Fugitive Kazakh Banker to Face New Charges

August 7. RAPSI, RIA Novosti. ASTANA

Fugitive Kazakh Banker to Face New ChargesKazakhstan’s financial police agency has initiated eight new cases against the fugitive Kazakh billionaire and former BTA Bank board chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov and other former bank managers, an agency spokesman said Wednesday.

They are suspected of issuing loans that were a priori unreturnable to offshore companies. The misappropriation of funds caused losses to the bank estimated at $317 million, financial police agency spokesman Murat Zhumanbay said at a briefing in Astana on Wednesday.

Ablyazov, a former minister, was detained on July 31 near Cannes, France. Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine are all seeking the extradition of the fugitive banker, who is suspected of embezzlement, money laundering and involvement in a criminal group. Kazakhstan and France do not have an extradition treaty, and extradition to Russia may be hindered for procedural reasons, so Ukraine remains the prime destination.

BTA bank was the biggest lender in Kazakhstan before it defaulted on $12 billion of debt and was taken over by the government in 2009, after which it was put under the control of its sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna.

Ablyazov fled to the UK immediately afterwards, where he was granted political asylum in 2011. He claims the charges against him are politically motivated after he fell out with the government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, with whom he was formerly closely associated.

In 2009, BTA filed a suit in the London High Court against Ablyazov, alleging embezzlement of $6 billion by its former top managers.

In May 2011, the court accepted the bank’s complaints against Ablyazov, and has already approved the seizure of billions of dollars worth of his assets including a London mansion, according to The Independent. In February 2012, it ruled in absentia to detain him for 22 months for contempt of court.