Rakhat Aliyev files: new light on main culprit’s death, consorts deeper involved than thought
Yet another hoax in the bloodstained Rakhat Aliyev tale: “various toxic substances” found in blood samples of the man considered to have been among the most dangerous criminals in Kazakhstan appear to have been medicine he took, on prescription and within prescriptions’ limits. It appears to be only one more attempt by defence lawyers on the main culprit’s two remaining codefendants to distract attention from the hideous fact that Austria’s justice system with the full cooperation of its judges undertakes frantic attempts to sweep one of the most bloodstaining murder cases the history of crime has known since Jack the Ripper under the carpet as the trial against the two remaining murder suspects Alnur Mussayev and Vadim Koshlyak drags on.
BY CHARLES VAN DER LEEUW, WRITER, NEWS ANALYST
The incident should have made nasty-looking headlines in the Austrian press – but failed to do so since it was quite unexpected and there happened to be no journalists in the audience when it occurred on May 13 in the afternoon. Only days later on May 21, based on interviews with eyewitnesses, the Kazakh edition of the Russian opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta made it public in an article later posted in a German translation [http://novgaz.com/index.php/2-news/1378-%D0%B2%D0%BE%D0%BB%D0%BA%D0%B8-%E2%80%94-%D0%BD%D0%B5-%D0%BE%D0%B2%D1%86%D1%8B] on the website of Tagdyr, a lobby outlet maintained by the surviving relatives of the murder victims of Rakhat Aliyev and consorts. The story relates how the defence had hoped for a testimony à décharge but instead got a series of most aggravating declarations against the defendants despite the shameless attempts by presiding judge Andreas Böhm – the same who in an unprecedented move stunned friend and foe by letting the two remaining murder suspects on the loose. Ever since, during sessions he threatened witnesses against the defendants called in by prosecutors and lawyers on behalf of the victims’ relatives in what looks very much indeed like a continuing attempt to sweep the entire affair under the carpet by cutting questions short from being asked and replied to.
The witness called in this time was no one less than Rysbek Sarsenbayev, whose brother Altynbek together with his driver and bodyguard had been found murdered back in 2006 on the outskirts of Almaty. The murderer was caught and brought to justice later, but put a false track in the direction of the people who had ordered the murder – only to correct himself recently. “Opposition leader and former government official Altynbek Sarsenbayev was kidnapped and shot dead together with his driver and bodyguard in the city of Almaty in February 2006 in what his supporters believe was a politically motivated crime,” Russia’s leading news agency Novosti reported on January 27 2014 [http://en.ria.ru/crime/20140127/186954803/Retrial-Over-Opposition-Leaders-Killing-Opens-in-Kazakhstan.html]. “A court found Yerzhan Utembayev, the former chief of staff of the upper house of parliament, guilty of masterminding the killing and sentenced him to 20 years in jail later in 2006. Ten other men were also convicted in connection with the crime. In December, a top court overturned the verdict against Utembayev and ordered a retrial. The ruling came after one of those convicted in the original case appealed to the Supreme Court in 2012, claiming that the killings were in fact ordered by Alnur Musayev, former head of the National Security Committee, and Rakhat Aliyev, the erstwhile son-in-law of President Nursultan Nazarbayev and also a former deputy head of the security services.”
A Kazakh court of law was soon to accept the perpetrator’s declarations and altered the verdict subsequently and accordingly. Kazakh authorities did not fail to inform their Austrian peers duly about the development. “Kazakhstan has sent documents pointing to the involvement of Rakhat Aliyev in the murder of a Kazakh opposition leader Sarsenbayev to Austria, Tengrinews reported following the verdict in the case [http://en.tengrinews.kz/crime/Kazakhstan-sends-evidences-of-Aliyevs-involvement-in-254137/], referring to Interfax. “We have sent an investigation request [to Austria], in which we specified that we needed to question several individuals and requested an opportunity to do so,” (the same?) “source in the Kazakhstan General Prosecutor’s Office” was quoted as saying through Interfax. “The request was set to the Austrian law enforcement authorities after the Specialised Inter-District Criminal Court of Almaty Oblast established the involvement of Rakhat Aliyev and former head of the National Security Service Alnur Musayev in the murder of prominent Kazakhstani politician Altynbek Sarsenbayev and his aides,” the report by Tengrinews reads further. “The bodies of the opposition leader Altynbek Sarsenbayev, his driver and bodyguard were discovered on February 13, 2006 in the outskirts of Almaty. Nine people were found guilty of the crime and were sentenced to various prison terms. Chairman of the Senate Yerzhan Utembayev was found guilty of ordering the assassination and sentenced to 20 years of imprisonment. Rustam Ibragimov, the killer, was sentenced to the capital punishment. Since there is a moratorium on death penalty in Kazakhstan, Ibragimov will spend his life behind bars. […] In late 2013 the Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan announced that Ibragimov changed his testimony. The killer announced that it were Aliyev and Musayev who ordered the murder, not Utembayev.”
This and little else was the topic heating up the courtroom in Vienna that May 13 afternoon – but a lot it was indeed. “According to eyewitnesses, Alnur Mussayev rose from his defendant’s bench after lunch break,” Novaya Gazeta’s report was to read. “He claimed that his name alongside that of Rakhat Aliyev was not only being discredited in Kazakhstan in connection with the two bank managers but also in connection with the murder of opposition politician Sarsenbayev. It was therefore his wish that Rysbek Sarsenbayev, who at the moment happened to be present in the courtroom, would make a statement to the court. Defence lawyers explained to the court that Sarsenbayev’s statement would show ‘an indirect connection’ to the Nurbank case.”
What followed put Judge Andreas Böhm hardly less in the spotlight than the witness. “Judge Böhm immediately demanded that Rysbek Sarsenbayev made his statement. Rysbek briefly related who his brother was and repeated directly and unmistakably that Aliyev and his people were to blame for the murder of the Nurbank managers (later he would answer to a question who ‘his people’ were by referring to Vadim Koshkyak) and that in Sarsenbayev’s circles if not evidence, sufficient circumstantial knowledge existed to identify Aliyev and Mussayev as Altynbek’s murderers. Visibly rebuffed, Andreas Böhm reminded the witness that he had been called to the stand with the aim to prove that both the Sarsenbayev case and the Nurbank case had been falsely attributed to Aliyev and Mussayev. Rysbek Sarsenbayev apologised but declared that he did not share this point of view, that in this regard he had made no commitments whatsoever to Mussayev and that the latter had probably made a mistake by calling to the witness stand.”
But that was not the end of it and the most embarrassing part of the performance had yet to come. “It was then that the presiding judge launched his counterattack,” the article relates further down. “Turning to the Kazakh, he told him that he had turned hiself from a defender into a plaintiff and that as he [the judge] understood it there was no proof that Aliyev and Mussayev had murdered his brother. The same was true for proof concerning their guilt of the murder of the Nurbank managers. […] Then Rysbek was reminded that the defendants’ defence claimed that Aliyev had been in opposition and aimed for a democratic Kazakhstan. ‘So you depict a wolf as a sheep,’ eyewitnesses quoted the witness as replying. ‘To mark Aliyev as opposition means an insult to all opposition members who have perished in the struggle with the regime.’ Then judge Böhm decided to pull out heavy artillery. He declared that the witness observations had ‘no relevance meaning that they stand in no relation to the case to be proven’. That caused indignation in the audience and even among members of the jury.”
As the month of May draws to a close, the trial is now about halfway, and can be expected to continue throughout the month of June. Prosecutors and lawyers who so far have been insulted and made look suspect themselves by the judge have already announced moves to have Andreas Böhm replaced in order to restore what is left of Austria’s reputation as a lawful state. Whereas so far mainly Kazakh witnesses have been heard, in weeks to come Austrian citizens related to the case are expected to be called in as witnesses. This could include justice minister Wolfgang Brandstetter, a one-time lawyer and longstanding ally of Aliyev.
Brandstetter is known, and does not deny, that at the time Aliyev escaped justice shortly after the twin murder in 2007 and (as it was established later, wrongly) obtained an Austrian passport, he had played a pivotal role in the proceedings. But he also claims that his relations with the culprit had come to an end into 2011 – which as it appeared more than a year ago “Rakhat Aliyev, Kazakhstan’s state enemy number one, drew up an impressive network of mailbox firms in Liechtenstein,” the Austrian newsreel Format wrote in early March 2014, in a fresh revelation of the culprit’s system set up to cover up for embezzled and extorted funds dating from his more glorious days back home. Under the headline “Wolfgang Brandstetter – the Protector” the exhaustive report discloses how Aliyev was supported and helped during the second half of the last decade by the same Austrian lawyer who today is the country’s justice minister. Less than three months after taking office, Brandstetter already narrowly survived the first attack on his dark-looking recent past when a judicial investigation team concluded that there was no hard evidence of abuse of office by any state official when back in 2007 Aliyev was briefly arrested at the time of his downfall in Kazakhstan at the Vienna airport. Virtually overnight, he was not only released (to find shelter in Brandstetter’s home) but also procured with a “foreign” Austrian passport which granted him protection and free movement throughout the Schengen zone.
Brandstetter’s head in relation to his intimate involvement in Rakhat Aliyev’s dealings. For in nearby Liechtenstein a police raid took place this winter at the office of a business interest and representation firm called Dorbat – believed to have been, and possibly to remain, among Rakhat Aliyev’s antenna companies in Central Europe with the aim to secure funds embezzled from businessmen in Kazakhstan at times when Aliyev seemed to have more clout than the head of state himself – mainly due to his immune position as the latter’s son-in-law. While wrestling through stockpiles of documents seized during the raid, prosecutor Martin Nigg stumbled on a number of other “dubious mailbox companies” in Format’s wordings, bearing names such as Innings, Lofro, Plotin, Whiteplane and other – on relation to which not only the names of Rakhat Aliyev and known associates popped up but also that of Wolfgang Brandstetter. Other people in high places, among whom features Adolf Wala, former governor of the National Bank of Austria, might well appear in court. If the judge, against the wish of prosecutors and lawyers supporting the victims’ relatives, is maintained, his behaviour in such illustrious company can hardly be believed to improve.
The fact that other murder cases are now popping up gradually create a scenario in which the basic picture becomes clearer and clearer – namely that Aliyev’s gang must have been, and possibly still is, a dangerous element in Kazakhstan’s sociopolitical framework which has been, and possibly still is, a threat to the country’s stability. The burning question remains who has been, and possibly still is, supporting a sinister fifth column lurking in the corner with the aim to strike when those behind the scheme deem the time to be right. That could provide an explanation to Austria’s judges’ weird attitude where it comes to get justice done – or rather undone should they get their way. This include politics – but not in the sense Aliyev’s consorts and lawyers have intended it. It could well, as we have tried to depict in previous reports, be part of a master plan to have fifth columns in place in former Soviet and other eastern-bloc states, including the Russian Federaation, to undermine their current statehood. Aoub this dimension of the Aliyev-related trial the last word has certainly not been spoken – and written.