The ALiyev files: curtain about to go up, years expected for it to fall down
On September 17, the long-awaited trial against Rakhat Aliyev, considered Kazakhstan’s most dangerous criminal, is set to begin. At stake during the first round of hearings and deliberations is whether or not Austria’s prosecution will be authorised to bring charges including of murder, kidnapping, extortion, theft and money laundering against the culprit who awaits proceedings in a nearby Austrian prison. The case is centered around the double murder committed in Almaty back in 2007, for which he has already been convicted of 25 years behind bars in Kazakhstan. But since Austria refused to extradite the culprit, it has burdened itself with all proceedings, which could make Aliyev end up in jail for life. In case charges are made, the actual trial is not expected to start until over the new year. And the Almaty murders are not the only query concerning Aliyev: at least two more cases – one located in Beirut and another one in Belgium, can be expected to reach the court in the process. In all: a long and complicated legal drama that could take years to drag on.
BY CHARLES VAN DER LEEUW, WRITER, NEWS ANALYST
“Friday September 12 was actually a rather important date for the formerly Vienna-based Kazakh ambassador Rakhat Shoraz – better known under his previous name Rakhat Aliyev,”a report published on the very same day by the local daily Die Presse [http://diepresse.com/home/panorama/oesterreich/3869139/Alijew-verzichtet-auf-Haftprufung]
was to read. Originally due for September 16 but put forward, that day a review on the rightfulness of his detention pending investigations, in force since June, should have taken place. But Aliyev let the court know short and sharp that he was waiving the proceedings. Thereby, the detention term was automatically extended with another two months.” According to the paper, the measure was confirmed on record by the chief spokesperson on behalf of the court Christina Salzborn.
All said? It certainly looks more or less like it. “If the accused Dr. Shoraz responds with claims that he is supposedly being ‘politically persecuted’, [and that] numerous witnesses have been put under pressure and therefore spoke out against him, there are no concrete angles present to sustain [such claims],” in the words of judge Silvia Lierbetreu from whom the detention orders come, as quoted by Die Presse in an earlier report published on August 28 this year [http://diepresse.com/home/panorama/wien/3858635/Mord-Erpressung_Starke-Indizien-gegen-Alijew]. “Instead, the plaintiffs and the court acknowledge “financial motives” behind the twin-murder in Almaty at the time it occurred. All done? Far from it, by contrast. “It remains to be seen whether charges against Aliyev will be filed,” the news report reads further down. “The last word is up to a council of wise men, called upon by justice minister Wolfgang Brandstetter on such serious cases to make recommendations. The minister follows those recommendations. Particularly in the case of Aliyev this council of wise men could get a specific signification, since before he took office Brandstetter used to occupy himself as defence lawyer on behalf of Aliyev.” In other words: it remains to be seen who those wise men are and whether there are one or more of Aliyev’s “friends” in Austria’s inner circles among them – which would explain Aliyev’s persistent attempts to uphold his image of “political” victim and vilify witnesses – in particular his former collaborators, two of whom, namely Alnur Mussayev and Vadim Koschlyak, are also behind bars in Vienna and, being co-defendants in the case, could make many extremely aggravating statements for Rakhat Aliyev in court.
According to some observers, Aliyev’s method to give himself the false image of a victim of political persecution is part of what he inherited from his Soviet education. “A once-feared KGB general now sits on suicide watch in a Vienna jail, a tawdry end to terrible tale. His strange story—worthy of a thriller—is a case study of how the former KGB uses forged documents to influence Western reporters, diplomats and politicians,” a recent article written by a “a senior analyst at Wikistrat, and author of Secret Empire: The KGB in Russia Today” named J. Michael Waller [http://www.forbes.com/sites/realspin/2014/09/03/the-kgbs-successor-is-using-forged-documents-to-deceive-the-west/] reads. “At a Soviet training academy in 1980s Moscow, Rakhat Aliyev met and courted the daughter of the future ruler of Kazakhstan. Once married, Aliyev became a senior spymaster in the Kazakh KGB. Later, he mounted a failed coup d’etat and fled with millions of dollars. Prosecutors in two countries linked Aliyev to a string of grisly murders, including two bankers whose bodies were found in 40-gallon oil drums.”
“Aliyev, who had been Kazakhstan’s ambassador to Austria, is now in an Austrian jail as authorities consider murder charges against him,” the article continues. “For years, Aliyev presented himself in American and European media as a brave ‘dissident’ – using what are now known to be forged documents purporting to show a global conspiracy involving former U.S. president Bill Clinton, former CIA director James Woolsey, and former leaders of Britain, Austria and other nations. Aliyev was taught basic forgery tradecraft as a young officer at the KGB Higher School in Soviet days. He certainly knew how to use forgeries to take down political targets – a common KGB tactic over many decades. Aliyev styled himself as a ‘progressive political dissident’ from Kazakhstan in a bid to win public sympathy. Even after his arrest in June 2014, the BBC headlined Aliyev as a ‘dissident’.”
The attitude of mass media, especially in the west, many of which tend to excell in leniency towards Aliyev’s apologetic statements – as for all it matters they do in other cases such as the pending one against his peer in (financial) crime Mukhtar Ablyazov, whose trial on eventual extradition to the Russian Federation begins in France next week. “The media never seemed to question the documents he supplied. But judges and lawyers soon did,” Waller relates. “They turned to renowned forgery expert Gideon Epstein, who spent decades exposing forgeries to hunt down Nazi war criminals. Now, in his nineties, Epstein easily proved Aliyev’s many documents to be fake. In a 2011 arbitration hearing, Epstein presented his analysis, prompting Aliyev to admit, under cross-examination, that he ‘received the documents from KNB sources in Kazakhstan’. KNB is the abbreviation for the re-named Kazakhstan KGB: ‘Aliyev also testified that the KNB offices in Kazakhstan have the capability of fabricating documents, according to legal documents.’ Aliyev’s two admissions, along with analysis from Epstein and former Europol director Max-Peter Ratzel, caused Aliyev lawyers to withdraw the documents on which they had based their cases. But Aliyev’s stream of forgeries had snarled hearings and legal proceedings on two continents, initially confusing journalists and jurists. Working through his in-laws – Issam Hourani and his brother (both of whom are cousins of Mahmud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority) – Aliyev introduced what attorneys call ‘forgery-based litigation’ as plaintiffs in London’s High Court, World Bank tribunals in Paris, and a U.S. District Court in Washington, DC. Judges in each case discovered the forgeries and the documents were withdrawn. Now divorced from the daughter of Kazakhstan’s ruler and cut off from the family fortune, Aliyev sought to escape international investigations by marrying his assistant, an Austrian citizen, whose European passport enabled him to travel. Like a James Bond villain, he moved to a secure compound in Malta.European and US authorities determined that many serious allegations against Aliyev had merit. The FBI worked closely with Kazakh prosecutors. With nowhere left to go, Aliyev surrendered to Austrian authorities in June 2014.”
The facts are well-known. On January 18, 2007. Zholdas Timuraliyev, the deputy chair of the board of Nurbank, the seventh-largest bank in Kazakhstan, and the head of the bank’s administration official A. Gilimov were about to make their way to the airport of Almaty for a business trip to Kiev, where they were to represent the bank’s president and majority shareholder Rakhat Aliyev. On their way, the two travellers receive a phone call from Aliyev, calling for an “urgent meeting” at the airport before their departure. He claimed that he had heard that their plane was delayed (nothing unusual) and offered to come to the airport to meet them. The meeting was to take place, but not in any way the two officials could have imagined. Once at the airport, they were taken to a discrete room in the security zone, where Aliyev and one of his men of confidence, V. Koshlyak, were waiting for them. The room was locked, Timuraliyev and Gilimov handcuffed and tied up, and it was only after some severe beatings that they heard what they had rolled into. Gilimov was demanded to render his stock in Nurbank at face value: 23,300 common shares at a price of 10,000 tenge, or about 30 euro at the time, “voluntarily”. As for Timuraliyev, he was to extort the business centre Ken Dala from its nominal owner, a certain B. Abdullayev, for a bargain price of 4.35 billion tenge, against the building’s par value of 14.75 billion, and hand it over to Aliyev.
The two victims were ominously reminded of the risk they and their families would take by not complying. The two gave in, but whether they thought that would be the end of a bad dream is not known. Whatever the case, on January 31 Timuraliyev, this time in the company of the deputy head of the bank’s financial administration Aybar.Khassenov, was invited to the main office of Nurbank on 38 Dostyk (still known under its former name Lenin) Avenue. On the IXth floor, where the executives held office, they were locked up in a small meeting room and once more tied up. This time, their company of hosts was larger. The gang removed all the bank’s personnel from eyesight, and after that a long session of threats and demands were made. Not only the two executives but also their friends and relatives were to give up their business interests and property. After midnight, the two men were dragged into a van waiting outside, and driven to Aliyev’s residence, where they were locked up in a storage room. On February 4, Khassenov was brought to the outskirts of the centre of Almaty, where he was allowed to make a phonedcall to his wife telling her that he was “hiding from the tax inspection”. Separately, Timuraliyev was brought to Druzhba, a village outside Almaty, where he was told to make a similar phonecall to his wife. On February 9, a Toyota Land Cruiser brought the two victims further into the countryside, to a place undetected by authorities so far. What is known is that they were given inections with lidocaine, which brings the blood pressure down to lethal levels within hours. It was found in their bodies which were discovered only months later.
Both before and after his arrest, Aliyev continuously accused “Kazakh secret state services and agents” of bringing in fake evidence in order to prove his guilt. But in reality, this is exactly what he did himself to “prove” that point. “At first, it seemed that Aliyev might be able to recover his reputation. But Austrian authorities discovered gigabytes of information showing that Aliyev was an uber-forger,” Waller relates. “Austrian prosecutors obtained a trove of recorded Skype conversations among Aliyev and his associates. Those recordings show that Aliyev directed the forgery campaign himself. Die Weiner Zeitung,, an Austrian newspaper of record, published an excerpt from Aliyev’s Skype conversation. In the transcript, Aliyev instructs a henchman to make a forged letter to falsely claim that former U.K. prime minister Tony Blair and former Austrian chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer were part of a global conspiracy. […] The two discussed nuances of language, with Aliyev insisting the forgery should be no more than two pages. The following year, the Austrian news magazine Profil ran an article headlined ‘Aliyev case: Alfred Gusenbauer suspected of spying’. Other Kazakh KGB “spies,” according to Aliyev’s conspiracy theory, include former Austrian chancellor Heinz Fischer, former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, former Italian prime minister Romano Prodi, and former Polish president Alexander Kwasniewski. He also accuses former president Bill Clinton, former CIA director James Woolsey and other former U.S. officials of conspiring against him. Aliyev claims they are all part of a Kazakhstan KGB plot called “Superkhan.”
“Indeed, everyone seems to be a member of this sinister plot,” Waller observes. “In July, protesters picketed the Vienna Criminal Court demanding justice for the unsolved violent death of Aliyev’s mistress, Anastasiya Novikova. The former TV anchor was thrown from a nine-story window and impaled on a wrought iron fence of the apartment building of Aliyev’s in-laws. Aliyev responded by calling the protestors Kazakhstan intelligence agents, according to his Facebook page. Aliyev is due in court on September 16. His trial should provide vital lessons for the press and the public: Not all ‘dissidents’ have clean hands and not all ‘documents’ are real. The intelligence services of former Soviet lands are still using forgeries to upend the West, turn our leaders against each other, and keep the bad guys on the streets. There is a difference between being generous and foolishly trusting. Aliyev’s bizarre case is part of larger trend of former Soviet state forgeries, including Russia itself. That is something that Americans should remember when the media lionizes heroes who are later unmasked as villains.”