Kazakhstan: Fresh Arrest Gives New Twist to Oligarch’s Tale
The dramatic tale of Kazakhstani oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, who is in detention in France on suspicion of perpetrating fraud on a grand scale, has taken a new turn with the arrest in Moscow of Olena Tyshchenko, a glamorous lawyer of Ukrainian origin and a close associate of the flamboyant banker.Tyshchenko was arrested on August 30 on suspicion of fraud and money-laundering, and on September 3 a Moscow court ordered her remanded in custody until October 31, RIA Novosti reported. Russian investigators believe Tyshchenko was instrumental in covering up fraud which Ablyazov is suspected of perpetrating through Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank, which sued him in the London High Court for allegedly robbing it of $6 billion. She is alleged to have put in place methods to cover up the ownership of shadow businesses, to prevent them being seized as Ablyazov’s assets are recovered.It was Tyshchenko who accidentally led private detectives to Ablyazov in his luxury hideout on the French Riviera, where he was arrested last month in a dramatic swoop. The private dicks hired by BTA Bank tailed Tyshchenko from a High Court hearing about the case in July, and she led them straight to his lair. British press reports have implied a close relationship between Ablyazov and Tyshchenko (who divorced her husband, Ukrainian businessman Sergey Tyshchenko, this summer), saying she spent a night in one mansion where Ablyazov was staying while private detectives kept it under observation. In another twist, Russian media have suggested it was Tyshchenko’s jealous former husband who brought about her downfall, by bugging her home in the south of France and recording her Skype conversations with Ablyazov.Ablyazov – who denies all charges and contends that Astana is pursuing him for political reasons – is in detention in France, facing extradition bids by Kazakhstan and Ukraine. His wife, Alma Shalabayeva, is under investigation for forging documents in Kazakhstan, where she was controversially deported from Italy with the couple’s six-year-old daughter in May. The urbane oligarch fled Kazakhstan for London in 2009 when BTA Bank, which he had chaired and owned through concealed assets, was forcibly nationalized. When the London High Court ordered him jailed last year for concealing assets in the BTA fraud case, Ablyazov fled the UK and went into hiding. He was later debarred from fighting the charges in a damning judgment that accused him of “cynicism, opportunism and deviousness” and ordered his assets sold to compensate BTA. A later judgment in a related trial put the nail in the coffin by finding that Ablyazov had orchestrated or authorized false loans at BTA Bank.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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