Mukhtar Ablyazov Conspiring Against Kazakhstan: It’s Official Now

Mukhtar Ablyazov conspiring against Kazakhstan: it’s official now

Are former Soviet oligarchs directly involved in undermining ex-Soviet states by financing the western-backed “Revolution factory”, and if so, what is the link? Both questions have now been answered by a Russian court of law on August 30, which put Russia’s neofascist leader Alexander Belov (original Potkin) behind bars for nine years not just for spreading ethnic hatred but also for embezzling money on behalf of Kazakhstan’s master swindler Mukhtar Ablyazov.

Ablyazov’s charade in which he relentlessly tries to display himself as a “political prisoner” and victim of a vilified Kazakh government has found response in high circles all over the world, prompting human rights organsations to shed crocodile’s tears over the case which stand in sharp contrast to their mild attitude regarding America’s war crimes in Iraq and elsewhere. Ablyazov has spent, and keeps spending, tens of millions of (stolen) money on lawyers and other consultants to keep up smooth publicity campaigns to convince the “political motives” behind the accusations against him. The funny thing about it all is that there are indeed plenty of political motives behind the case – but not those Ablyazov want the public to believe and instead of everybody else’s the motives are his.

Apart from numerous pieces of jurisprudence by British, French and other courts of law, one report posted later by Wikileaks back in early 2011 and written in 2009, only months after Ablyazov’s fraud schemes had fallen through and the culprit had taken shelter in London, is just one o the examples which makes it clear what Abyazov had, and still has, in mind where it came to spending a substantial part of the bounty. The leaked report, marked “classified”, comes from a “political officer” of the American Embassy in London by the name of Poloff.

“Ablyazov said that although he had never publicly supported the unregistered opposition political movement Alga, he had always privately supported them. He said he has also provided direct assistance to the United Social Democrat Party and communist parties — to anyone who is against the President,” the document reads. “[…] Ablyazov said he plans to stay in London indefinitely, and his lawyers are pursuing an application for legal status in the UK (NFI). He said he plans ‘to support all opposition movements’ and will try ‘to change the regime in Kazakhstan’, as he views it as a ‘criminal’ government that should be forced from power. First on his agenda is to increase the amount of opposition reporting on his satellite television station K Plus, which will transmit to all of Central Asia from April 2009 when the station will be available through three satellite networks. He said K Plus will also stream over the internet and has several offices throughout central Asia. He also plans to work with his in-country political network to mobilise change.”

Organising an extremist group

In other words: Mukhtar Ablyazov belongs to the “hybrid revolution factory” which aims to create atmospheres of discontent in target countries, while preparing subversive forces on the ground to get crowds behind violent coups toppling legitimate governments carried out with the help of armed mercenaries, often recruited from far-right extremist groups. Briefly: the Maidan method. It made Ukraine plunge into socioeconomic misery and civil war. In Ablyazov’s mind, this is the scenario awaiting Kazakhstan should he be able to carry out his scheme.

As though to demonstrate this, one of Ablyazov’s cronies involved in illegal transactions of cash and assets to divert them from his bank BTA to offshore havens out of reach has been a Russian neofascist leader named Alexander Belov – whose real surname is Potkin. He was the founder of the far-right Movement Against Illegal Immigrants, or DPNI, which had the slogan “Russia for (ethnic) Russians” and was banned as extremist in 2011. It was replaced by another “nationalist” movement called “Russians” that was also outlawed last year. Both movements’ banners bore resemblance of nazi-ensigns as well as confederal ones dating from the American Civil War but still in use among US neonazi organisations.

Now, Potkin alias Belov is set to spend nine years behind bars. “Moscow’s Meshchansky District Court has found Russian nationalist Alexander Potkin guilty of organising extremist movement using the funds embezzled from the Kazakh BTA Bank,” the Russian judicial newsreel RAPSI reported on August 24 this year. “A prosecutor earlier asked the court to sentence Potkin, who is also known as Alexander Belov, to nine years in penal colony. Investigators claim that Mukhtar Ablyazov, former chairman of the bank, who wanted to destabilise the constitutional order in Kazakhstan, asked Potkin to help him with organising an extremist group. Potkin allegedly agreed and used funds embezzled from BTA Bank to spread the nationalist ideology in Kazakhstan.”

Ukraine: where Ablyazov’s hopes lie

With his Russian vehicle exposed and neutralised, Ablyazov’s attention is now bound to have turned to Ukraine where he has plenty of “old friends” now occupying high places. On the very crossroad of virtually all Ukraine’s dirty business stands out the name of Igor Kolomoisky, Ukraine’s second-richest tycoon and hawkish anti-federalist campaigner, later appointed governor of the Dnepropetrovsk province. Kolomoisky has his own “private army” consisting of mercenaries, originating, among other sources, of Soldiers of Fortune sent by America’s Blackwater corporation. His militiamen have been responsible for the mass murder in Odessa in the winter of 2013/’14. But Kolomoisky also happened to own the country’s largest bank, Privat Bank, which in the winter of 2014/’15 was in the process of being bailed out for the equivalent of roughly a billion US dollar, following fund diversion schemes during the previous decade. It was not so much the government bailing out the faltering bank, but the International Monetary Fund. According to available information, part of the money “lost” on non-repaid loans at the time include part of those funneled away through Privat Bank by Mukhtar Ablyazov, Kazakhstan’s banker/swindler since he robbed the bank he used to control, BTA, of billions in dollars using the same method – and with similar aims.

“Mukhtar Ablyazov, the banker from Kazakhstan who embezzled worth between 10 and 12 billion US dollar in lent cash and submitted collateral from the local Bank TuranAlem (BTA), as the bank’s president, CEO and major shareholder,” The Moscow Times was to report years later. “In early spring 2009, a $10 billion hole in the balance sheet was disclosed, leading to the bank’s bail-out by the Kazakh state and the latter becoming a 78 per cent majority shareholder in it. Ablyazov fled to Britain, where the bank pursued numerous court cases against him with the aim to recover part of the stolen money and assets, about 3.5 million Sterling of which was stashed through circuits of offshore mailbox firms registered on British territory.” In early 2012, faced with a 22-months prison term for perjury, Ablyazov fled the UK in turn. He was to be arrested in France in summer 2014, and due to be extradited either to Russia or to Ukraine, both of which were the jurisdictions where the fund-diversion and conversion into illegaly bought assets have taken place, since extradition to Kazakhstan was not possible. At the time of writing, proceedings regarding his extradition have not finished, but it is clear that Ukraine, where his former accomplices are now in power, is where the culprit’s hopes lie.

“With the intention of killing civilians”

In the case of Privat Bank, there appears to be blood on the trail. “Russian investigators have launched a criminal case against Ukraine’s Interior Minister and the Dnepropetrovsk region’s governor on suspicion of the “organised murder” of civilians in eastern Ukraine,” The Moscow Times wrote in its report. “Investigators plan to explore further charges against Interior Minister Arsen Avakov and billionaire governor Igor Kolomoisky, including the use of prohibited means and methods of warfare, as well as the abduction of journalists and obstruction of their lawful activities, the statement added. The two will soon be placed on an international wanted list. Since early April, the two have ‘knowingly and with the intention of killing civilians’ orchestrated a series of criminal activities committed by Ukrainian troops, the National Guard and the ultranationalist group Right Sector, as well as members of the special Dnyepr battalion, which was created and financed by Kolomoisky, Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin said. Investigators further allege that the pair ordered the abductions of Russian journalists reporting on events in eastern Ukraine.”

As for Kolomoisky’s financial dealings, the western backers of the “revolution” apparently prefer to look the other way – and the IMF appears to be no exception to that. “The Ukrainian revolution has been very bad for business in the country. But for Igor Kolomoisky’s Privatbank there has been compensation of almost a billion dollars in state funds: publicly, rival Ukrainian commercial banks call that favouritism; privately, Ukrainian business as usual, one report on the case reads. “Privatbank is Ukraine’s largest commercial bank. Since the replacement of the Ukrainian Government in February, and the start of the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) financial aid programme in April, Privatbank has been the largest beneficiary of what the IMF and the Ukrainian Ministry of Finance are calling Emergency Liquidity Assistance (ELA) to the country’s banks. Published measurements of Privatbank’s share of ELA range from 36% to more than 40% of the additional financing which has flowed out of Ukrainian state funds into the commercial banks.”

Whereas suspicions regarding an Ablyazov-Kolomoisky remained, at least for the moment, circumstantial, there are better demonstrated links between Ablyazov and the current regime in Kiev. For also prominent in the (yet incomplete) file of Ablyazov’s connections with the powers-that-be in present-day Ukraine (or most of it) is that of the Finance Minister, Alexander Shlapak. “Shlapak acknowledges that between 1994 and at least 1998 he was an executive at Privatbank’s Lviv branch, and then vice-chairman of Privatbank in charge of its western Ukraine operations, an investigative report published recently by long-experienced news analyst in the former USSR John Helmer, reads. “Since then Shlapak has been in and out of Ukrainian government. From 2010 until his February appointment to be finance minister, he was a senior executive at IMG International Holding Company. In the Ukrainian records, this is a 6-year old insurance brokerage and fund manager, with a conglomerate of insurance companies in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan. The records also reveal that while Shlapak was in charge at IMG, an investment in Oranta Insurance Company, a related party, disappeared when the latter lost its operating licence and was ordered into bankruptcy administration. Oranta has been part-owned by the controversial Kazakh business figure, Mukhtar Ablyazov, and by a Cyprus front company controlled by Victor Pinchuk. At the time Pinchuk was also operating Rossiya Insurance in Russia, but it has subsequently collapsed into bankruptcy amid allegations of cash stripping through fraudulent reinsurance schemes. Who controls IMG is not known. Shlapak was asked if he continued to have a business association with Privatbank after he left its employ. His spokesman refused to say. Asked the same question Privatbank spokesman in Dniepropetrovsk, Oleg Serga, also declined to answer. A well-known financial reporter in Kiev comments: [Shlapak] cannot be called an agent of Kolomoisky. Asked to confirm how much Privatbank has received to date from NBU in ELA payments, Serga will not disclose how much ELA Privatbank has been receiving, but he disputes the timing that has been reported.”

“A virulent, discriminatory, and destructive ideology”

Remains the question how perceptive Kazakhstan’s general public would be in case Ablyazov and crones would indeed try to carry out their scheme on the ground. One analyst named Andrew Korybko appears to deem that their chances would virtually stand at zero: “If one was blind to the domestic and international contexts pertinent to Kazakhstan, then they’d be inclined to believe that the Russian population constitutes the greatest threat to the country’s sovereignty, although this couldn’t be anywhere further from the truth. Theoretically speaking, this demographic satisfies all of the criteria necessary for sparking a Hybrid War, but Kazakhstan’s multipolar alignment with the Eurasian Union and respectful treatment of this influential minority group precludes any chances that they or Russia would ever try to move forward with this scenario. On the reverse, the very inclusion of such a large Russian minority within Kazakhstan ties Astana and Moscow closer together than just about any other state in the former Soviet Union and works to enhance, not deteriorate, relations between them.”

But the commentator also points out that this does not make Kazakhstan immune to provocations – exactly the type the tandem Ablyazov/Potkin had in mind. “The only vulnerability in this relatively secure setup is if the US and its proxy NGO affiliates succeed in brainwashing the Russian-Kazakh population with Pravy Sektor- and Navalny-esque extreme nationalism, which could then create a delicate geopolitical situation where the raucous Russian minority agitates against Astana and attempts to drive a wedge between Kazakhstan and Russia. Security officials in both states are likely well aware of this obvious scenario and can be predicted to have rehearsed coordinated contingency measures for responding to it. Nonetheless, if such a virulent, discriminatory, and destructive ideology as ‘Greater Russian Nationalism’ is allowed to fester in multicultural Kazakhstan and parts of the Russian Federation itself, then a scandalous outbreak in the Near Abroad could provoke a simultaneous cross-border event inside of Russia, especially if ‘sleeper sympathizers’ organize anti-government protests against Moscow’s ‘betrayal’ of its compatriots out of its refusal to replicate the Crimean scenario in Northern Kazakhstan.”

There is little doubt that Ablyazov fears to be extradited to Russia no that his comrade in crime has been jailed and convicted. His hopes may lay in Ukraine where Kolomoisky’s powers have been curtailed and Privatbank declared bankrupt, but where his other operations keep flourishing. There can be little doubt that Kolomoisky will be all too ready to come to Ablyazov’s assistance to escape justice and prepare his “mission” in Kazakhstan. All this means that with Ablyazov in a French jail and the French government dragging its feet on his extradition Kazakhstan remains within the danger zone and public awareness of it should not falter.

by Charles van der Leeuw

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