The multi-billion thefts from BTA: from Ablyazov files to Odessa files?

Has the French court of appeal simply noted a technical error in procedures that should haveled to the extradition of Kazakhstan’s (and the world’s)  champion swindler Mukhtar Ablyazov? Or has the suddenly changed political map of the world following the coup d’état in Ukraine pushed through thanks to its support from the USA and the EU (in particular the UK) influenced proceedings in France? While the culprit’s main victim, Kazakh bank BTA now in the process of being absorbed by its new largest owner and former rival Kazkommertsbank, maintains that the problem is of merely formal character and is on the way to be corrected, other parties point at possible political motivations behind what happened in Paris. Yet other parties tend to agree with that point, but instead of criticising it tend to hail it as a move in the name of liberty. As a result, the entire affair is threatened to turn into a political charade, pushing the true story behind it to the background.


The multi-billion thefts from BTA: from Ablyazov files to Odessa files?In an article signed by James Rodríguez in Spanish and posted on “Periodista Digitál” in early April [] and in English signed Muhammad Munir and posted in the same week on Frontier Post [], the authors take a defensive stand on the side of the imposter’s and his associates’ victims. “Democracy and corruption cannot move together. Some people involved in corruption try to take refuge in politics. One such example is of Mr. Mukhtar Ablyazov,” the English version of the article begins. “[…] In the lights of big political events, the European public dropped out of sight one small but very ambitious person with grandiose plans. Mukhtar Ablyazov, oligarch, swindler and plunderer of other people’s capital, now passes his time in the prison in Luynes near Aix-en-Provence. What is so interesting about this person in the times when the redistribution of the world takes place? What does he have to do with it? In fact almost extinct interest to Ablyazov broke out with renewed vigor precisely due to the current geopolitical realities brought about by political crisis in Ukraine. This story is a kind of “litmus test”, which puts everything in its place and allows seeing clearly “true face” of European democracy.”

So could it be true that Ablyazov and his lawyers have, so far successfully, tried to play the “Ukraine card” in France – both in court and in the public domain? “It is proven that the actions of Mr. Ablyazov are mere criminality,” the article continues. “He could have faced long prison time for crimes committed in Russia and other countries and resulting in stealing more than six billion dollars. In other words, once having stolen one must go to prison. But note that as soon as Ukrainian crisis involving Russia broke out and as soon as Moscow did not behaved as expected by organizers of coup in Kiev, the French justice carried out its own little ‘coup’. Ablyazov somehow turned out to be closer and more understandable, and his crimes appeared to be less scary as they seemed before. Earlier, the French justice officials gave beautiful words that oligarch Ablyazov would not buy them as he bought some public representatives. But when the political crisis broke out the attitude towards Russia changed and almost immediately Aix-en-Provence Court acknowledged errors in the Ablyazov’s extradition proceedings.”

Whereas more respectable non-governmental organisations such as the Helsinki Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have more than once expressed their reservations regarding the risk of extraditing Ablyazov to Kazakhstan because of the country’s problematic penal law enforcement conditions and without questioning the justification of the culprit’s prosecution, others abuse the case to express blunt hostility by virtually turning Ablyazov into a political martyr. A most absurd distortion of the criminal case in such a manner was recently given by an NGO called Open Dialogue, which in its own words aims “…to create a unified information space, where people from the Atlantic to the Pacific who share European values will be able to exchange their knowledge and experience, implement their public initiatives aimed at continuous natural transformation of post-totalitarian societies towards democracy and civil liberties”.  Open Monologue would be a better name, though, as in its publication on the Ablyazov affair there is little trace of exchange let alone “natural transformation”.

The lengthy apologetic piece of prose concentrates conveniently on Ukraine in a clear attempt to depict Ablyazov as a beacon of the latter’s “revolutionary” new government struggle against the Russian Bear. Accusations point at the law firm acting in Kiev on behalf of the  culprit’s main victim BTA Bank. “Through the law firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners, the Kazakh party submitted to Ukrainian investigators information and personal data of accused parties; written criminal charges and requests for extradition; provided guidance to Ukrainian investigators as to who was to be declared wanted by Interpol; which questions should be asked during interrogations and in what manner investigations were to be conducted,” the ext reads. “After the forced nationalisation of BTA Bank in 2009, Kazakh authorities implemented a broad strategy of oppression of political opponents and their families. […] The Law Firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners’ has represented the interests of BTA Bank in Ukraine since 2009 and lobbying the judicial prosecution of the participants to the case. The firm was engaged in defending the criminal charges against Mukhtar Ablyazov, Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov, Roman Solodchenko, Alexander Udovenko, Tatiana Paraskevich, Shalabayev[1] and other participants of the so-called ‘organised criminal group’; also, it has collaborated with the Kazakh BTA Bank and the Hogan Lovells company in the course of some international trials. The firm was engaged in judicial proceedings against Ukrainian companies, involved in the case of BTA Bank, including Terra Capital, Logopark Limanskiy, Logopark Hadzhibey etc.”

Even though the last observation is true in itself, the NGO instead of acknowledging that the victim of a gang of imposters have a right to take their case to court, attempts to sustain that case are suggested to be violations of Ukrainian law. Among the absurdities brought forward by Open Dialogue is a statement which reads that “… employees of the firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners were mediators between the Kazakh BTA Bank and Ukrainian investigators in the process of information transfer. In this case, the Ukrainian law regarding the conditions for the provision of information was violated. According to Article 11 of the Law of Ukraine ‘On militia’, the police have the right to receive the necessary data without hindrance upon written request. In this case, however, e-mails were exchanged, which is more reminiscent of informal cooperation, bypassing the rules established by the legislation. […] Such mediation goes beyond a legitimate ‘cooperation in the framework of joint investigation’ and indicates the exertion of a direct influence on investigating authorities by Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank. […] Actions undertaken by the lobbyists of BTA Bank constitute a direct violation of the Criminal Procedure Code, which prohibits interference in the work of an investigator by persons who are not entitled to do so.” In other words: victims of a crime are not supposed to have the right to provide authorities with details of the crime or in any other way help them to bring the criminal to justice…

“When sending a list of questions for the interrogation of [Ablyazov’s former associate] Rifat Rizoyev, [BTA lawyer] Arseniy Gerasymiv gave the following instructions to [Ukrainian prosecutor] Maksim Melnik: ‘The interrogation must prove: 1. All offshore companies were established by Ablyazov – he was the organiser;  an instruction was given to establish and manage off-shore companies (please find it attached), where roles of all participants are described; 2. Ablyazov is the true beneficiary of these companies; 3. Ablyazov’s people  managed the off-shore companies (Udovenko, Kononko, Paraskevich, Shalabayev, Khazhayev); 4. The purpose of the establishment of the off-shore companies was to steal money from the bank; 5. The designs were cheaper. During their financing, money was embezzled.” This “instruction” contains nothing new and its affirmations only reflect what long before been exhaustively explained in numerous court verdicts of the Royal Court of England and Wales. Apparently deliberately overlooking the penal side of the affair, the document ends with an urge to Ukraine’s interim government: We recommend the Acting General Prosecutor of Ukraine, Oleg Makhnitskiy immediately withdraw the extradition request in the case of Mukhtar Ablyazov and other persons, accused in the trumped-up cases of BTA Bank. The new Ukrainian government, which was previously a victim of oppression by Yanukovych, is obliged to investigate the actions of a wanted former General Prosecutor, Viktor Pshonka and law enforcement officers who falsified charges against Ablyazov and his colleagues, thereby contributing to their  political persecution in Kazakhstan and Russia.” No explanation in the entire document is given about what should be considered “false” in terms of the stolen billions’ origin and destination. Moreover, it is a direct call for the government to ignore the independence of courts and declare jurisprudence void with the stroke of a pen. All very “revolutionary” indeed – eminding one of the way western propagandists to a large extent successfully tried to depict the former Hungarian nazi collaborators staging an extreme-right coup back in 1956 while deliberately ignoring the hideous crimes they had committed under German occupation…

“The significance of this case is that such political laces around the fundamental legal issues undermine confidence in the impartiality of European justice,” its conclusion reads. “It is no wonder that after this the Eurasian criminals settled in the European Union. Trade of indulgences is now taking place as the Middle Ages. What else is there to do in the times of crisis? But once blurred reputation cannot be cleaned for many years. The European Union and the West in general are increasingly accused of double standards. It is time for them to think and stop letting themselves down. […] In the case of Ablyazov it is necessary to understand one thing. Firstly, he is a criminal and a thief; do not dishonor yourself by dealing with him. Secondly, if it so important to put pressure on Russia, then better to choose other methods. Who is Ablyazov for Moscow anyway? Just an insignificant episode! Trading his criminal case is shallow, ugly and pathetic and does benefit anyone, expect those who are nourished by him. Here the important question is that should we continue in the same spirit, encouraging the international crime? Guarding the former banker who had brazenly deceived bank depositors and partners? By the way does France know that some French financial institutions are among those deceived by Ablyazov? There are also English, Russian and Kazakh banks. Law enforcement agencies from a dozen different countries are interested in the fate of this criminal. One has to understand that democracy and corruption cannot move together. Let’s separate the wheat from the chaff. “

During most of the Cold War, any scoundrel from any Warsaw Pact member state was automatically hailed as a “dissident” in the west and could be assured of political asylum automatically. That trend never really disappeared and was reflected in the affairs connected with Vladimir Gusinsky and his Most Bank, Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his oil company Yukos, and Boris Berezovsky and his business imperium – just to name a few. Now, the likes of Mukhtar Ablyazov, Viktor Khrapunov and Rakhat Aliyev appear to be in vogue among western Cold War mongers. In all: to stem the Kremlin’s tide, stem the tide of justice and make it a tool of tit-for-tat politics. Thieving oligarchs of the world, unite…