Rakhat Aliyev’s private gulag: victims demand justice, one dies “mysteriously”/I

Are Rakhat Aliyev’s agents still active in Kazakhstan, and could they have been left with enough clout to stage a second coup attempt? This question has been imposing itself ever since the “mysterious accident” in late January this year in which one of the victims of Aliyev’s one-time extortion practices perished. The “accident” on one of Almaty’s main roads took place shortly before the victim was due to leave for Vienna where he and a number of his peers were to give a press presentation in which the way they had been illegally detained and bereft of their money and property on the order of Aliyev at the time the latter was deputy head of Kazakhstan’s state security service – among other functions. A total estimated sum of several hundred million euro has been squeezed by Aliyev from dozens of entrepreneurs and reinvested in numerous assets in Austria, Germany and elsewhere. The fresh affair not just adds one more dead body to his record, but also raises fear that next to his fifth column in Austria, ALiyev also maintains a sixth one back in his country of origin.

BY CHARLES VAN DER LEEUW, WRITER, NEWS ANALYST

Rakhat Aliyev’s private gulag: victims demand justice, one dies “mysteriously”/IThe venue was quote cynical: Medien Zenter St.Marx downtown Vienna  and also one of the objects Rakhat Aliyev, using his present-day spouse as a nominee, invested part of his stolen millions into. Five Kazakh citizens were due to hold a press conference in the building on February 13, in order to explain n detail how they had been held in captivity at the time Aliyev was enjoying the heydays of his career, and only been freed after they had “voluntarily” disposed of their capital reserves and their property. Only four of them turned up, since the fifth, an Almaty-based businessman named Rafik Sotkimbayev, had died some days earlier in what has been described as a “mysterious car accident” on one of Almaty’s main roads in late January, according to a report on the issue in Die Presse (http://www.wienerzeitung.at/nachrichten/wien/stadtpolitik/608052_Mutmassliche-Aliyev-Opfer-im-Media-Quarter.html). The first one who remained on the team was Petr Afanasenko, Aliyev’s former security employee who lives in exile in Belgium and whose story is known. The others are Serik Medetbekov, Satzhan Ibrayev and Kasym Pasanbegovic.

On arrival, though, a curious surprise awaited the company and the invited journalists and camera crews, as security blocked the entrance to them, even though the bill of just over 1,000 euro had been duly paid in advance, on the order of Christian Bodisz, the man in charge of Marx Media Vienna GmbH, the showcase firm that nominally owns the media building on behalf of Aliyev, through a nominee who happens to be his present-day spouse with whom he lives in his hideout of Malta. According to a report published subsequently in the Viennese daily Die Presse (http://diepresse.com/home/politik/aussenpolitik/1561826/Mysterioser-Unfall_Mutmassliches-AliyevOpfer-tot) the press conference was later held in a nearby pub. As for Bodisz, he declared in a statement to the newspaper that no public meeting concerning Aliyev’s cases would ever be held at „his“ premises.

Last year, it looked for a while as though there is hope that Aliyev’s victims who are still alive as well as the relatives of those who have perished in the course of time had a chance to see their demands honoured by Austrian courts of law. “The Supreme Court of Vienna did not find political motives in the criminal prosecution of the former Kazakhstan ambassador to Austria, Kazakhstan President’s former son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev,” Interfax wrote in a report (http://www.interfax.kz/?lang=eng&int_id=expert_opinions&news_id=1431) in March last year. “Gabriel Lansky emphasized that the Austrian court considered the investigation outcome in Kazakhstan and main conclusions brought by a Kazakh court to be well founded in the Nurbank case and the testimonies from Armangul Kapasheva’s (widow of the deceased Nurbank top manager Zholdas Timraliyev) and Abilmazhen Galimov (former chairman of the Nurbank board) to be trustworthy. According to the lawyer, the findings by the prosecutor office of Vienna not only confirmed but deepened suspicions against Rakhat Aliyev.”

By summer, it still looked like Austria’s authorities were indeed proceeding regarding the cases of murder, extortion and money laundering. “The former son-in-law of the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev Rakhat Aliyev may be sentenced to life in prison by an Austrian court, the Kazakhstani Vremya newspaper reported citing a lawyer of the Lansky, Ganzger & Partner law firmAnna Zeitlinger,” Interfax wrote in a report (http://www.interfax.kz/?lang=eng&int_id=expert_opinions&news_id=464) published in July last year. “According to Zeitlinger, a criminal case over the kidnapping of two bankers in Kazakhstan was initiated in Austria back in 2007 but was not prosecuted due to the ongoing consideration by the Austrian authorities of the request for Aliyev’s extradition to Kazakhstan.”

The issue, and in particular the fact that various EU member states’ authorities keep dragging their feet where it comes to pursuing justice concerning Aliyev, has led to questions in the European Parliament with somewhat less than satisfactory results. One of the questions raised in December last year (http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+WQ+E-2013-014020+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN) reads as follows: “Rakhat Aliyev, the former Ambassador of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Austria and Kazakhstan’s former Deputy Foreign Minister, is being investigated by the authorities in Austria, Germany and Malta in connection with allegations of serious white collar crimes. The Austrian authorities are also investigating other serious accusations against Mr Aliyev, which include abduction and murder. The EU-wide investigations into Mr Aliyev’s activities are being conducted by judicial authorities in Vienna (Austria), Krefeld and Düsseldorf (Germany) and Valletta (Malta). Based on the information available, the scale of the white collar crimes of which Mr Aliyev is accused means that this is a matter for the EU, as well as for the national authorities. Legal proceedings which have been ongoing for a number of years at national level could already have been completed and brought to court by now. In the light of the EU-wide fight against money laundering, corruption and white collar crime, does the Commission think that the judicial assessment of the legal investigations against Rakhat Aliyev at national level could be accelerated if EU bodies such as Eurojust and Europol were consulted? Is the Commission monitoring the current status of national investigations against Rakhat Aliyev?”

The answer on behalf of the Commission voiced by a certain Ms Malmström, dated February 10 this year, would appear to be evasive at best. “The Commission is aware, through media reports, of the investigations conducted against Rakhat Aliyev, notably related to money laundering,” it read. “While the facts investigated may have cross-border elements or even a European dimension, the EU has no competence to conduct criminal law investigations. Member States’ legislation still differs significantly when it comes to the definition of money laundering and to the level of criminal sanctions for this offence. The Commission is currently considering proposing changes to the existing legal framework on Anti-Money laundering. The Commission systematically encourages Member States’ cooperation with Europol and has also introduced in its proposal for a new Europol regulation a provision obliging Member States to supply Europol with the data necessary for it to fulfil its objectives. In addition, the Commission and Europol encourage the setting up of joint investigation teams.”

As authorities remain by and large passive, the culprit himself made headlines of late by his attempts to mislead justice with the aim to maintain his image of a “politically persecuted”, innocent person. “In the proceedings currently underway against Rakhat Aliyev (alias Rakhat Shoraz), formerly Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Austria, one-time deputy head of his country’s secret service, and former First Vice Foreign Minister, clear evidence now exists that Aliyev submitted forged evidence in proceedings in the USA and Austria,” the report of a press conference held by Lansky’s team on January 20 this year (http://en.tagdyr.net/6376/aliyev-case-press-conference-with-univ-prof-dr-christian-grafl) read. “This confirms previous evidence according to which Aliyev manipulated and forged documents and statements in an effort to avoid criminal prosecution connected with the murders of two Kazakh managers of Nurbank. In addition to this, transcripts of telephone conversations between Aliyev and a Kazakh national living in the United Arab Emirates have now turned up in which it is agreed that letters to the Austrian Embassy should be produced proving that [former Austrian chancellor – ChvdL] Alfred Gusenbauer and other prominent European politicians are agents of the Kazakh secret service, and that accusations of murder against Aliyev are false as a result.”

Aliyev’s attempt has fallen through because one of his “witnesses” apparently blackmailed by the culprit for the latter’s defence moved to the side of the victims. “A collection of audio tapes consisting of intercepted Skype telephone calls has been handed over by a former witness for the defence who has now withdrawn his statements because he had been pressurised to make them. On the tapes, it can be heard how Aliyev commissions the manipulations and forgeries and discusses them in detail over the telephone,” the press report reads further down, followed by a transcription of one of Aliyev’s abovementioned telephone conversations with his interlocutor in the Emirates – a certain Lev Nakhmanovich:

“Nakhmanovich: You mean this… what’s his name, your…?

Aliyev: Gusenbauer.

Nakhmanovich: Yes, Gusenbauer… OK, so we focus on those two.

Aliyev: Yes. Tony Blair and Gusenbauer.

Nakhmanovich: Now, in this case… Before we send it off [let’s just agree the nuances].

Aliyev: Of course, of course…

Nakhmanovich: … you speak to your friends again…

Aliyev: Yes.

Nakhmanovich: …and we won’t make it too long.

Aliyev: No, it shouldn’t be more than two pages.

Nakhmanovich: I’ll do what I can, but […] it’s good, as far the idea is concerned, we should have done all the details, but…

Aliyev: No, two pages really is long enough.

Nakhmanovich: …It needs to be precise… serious.

Aliyev: Two pages. We don’t need any more.”

As for Aliyev’s “strategy”, the exports suggest that buying time by spreading doubts among the Austrian authorities and the general public has been to some extent effective so far. “Along with the forged documents, the tapes – which it is not possible to go into any further at this point in time – offer insights into how Aliyev is conceiving and conducting his campaign of disinformation, and the methods he uses. The forged documents are designed to deceive courts and authorities. The campaign of disinformation being carried out simultaneously is designed to mislead and manipulate the media. […] We are obviously dealing with a smear campaign in which Aliyev and his presumed accomplices are directing and pulling the strings. […] Initially, the appearance of politically motivated action on the part of the secret service against Aliyev is created by presenting forged documents. The document deals with facts of the case which correspond, or could correspond in part, to genuine data (real people, events known in the media or in the public domain), lending the document the appearance of being genuine. These facts are then supplemented by content crucial for Aliyev’s defense strategy. Since only copies are ever presented, it is not initially easy to clearly contradict this appearance, as a result of which it cannot simply be ignored by the Court of Arbitration or investigating authority. When it comes to the origin of the document, a “reliable source” in Kazakhstan is always named by Aliyev, although this source is never disclosed, with the catch-all excuse of supposed “security concerns”. In this way, the genuine nature of the source can never be investigated by questioning. As soon as there is a risk that it could be proven during the proceedings that the documents presented are forged, the documents in questions are withdrawn, without any analysis that could expose the evidence. The effect of slurring the reputation of the people named in the forged documents and the impression of a wider conspiracy against Aliyev by the secret service remain, however, as a result of which the aim of creating doubt amongst the authorities and courts in question is achieved.” (to be continued)

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