Kazakhstan: UK Ruling Sounds Legal Death Knell for Fugitive Oligarch
Fugitive Kazakh oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov has been dealt a serious blow in a massive fraud case brought against him in London’s High Court by Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank: Ablyazov has been debarred from fighting BTA’s accusations that he pilfered $6 billion, reports The Lawyer. Barring a successful appeal, the November 6 ruling sounds the death knell for Ablyazov’s hopes of clearing his name. His reputation also took a hit from the judge’s condemnation of Ablyazov’s attitude to the court: “It is difficult to imagine a party to commercial litigation who has acted with more cynicism, opportunism and deviousness towards court orders than Mr. Ablyazov.”Ablyazov left Kazakhstan for London in 2009 after Kazakh authorities forcibly nationalized BTA Bank, which he headed and owned through an undeclared stake.BTA sued Ablyazov for embezzlement in London. The oligarch went on the run after the High Court in February handed him a 22-month prison sentence for contempt of court for concealing assets. His whereabouts are unknown.If Ablyazov loses his planned appeal, BTA can move to seize his assets, which – according to the British press – include a $29-million nine-bedroom mansion on The Bishop’s Avenue, a London street so exclusive it is dubbed Billionaires’ Row.Creditors of BTA, which has defaulted on debt twice in the last three years, will take a share of any funds recouped. BTA Managing Director Pavel Prosyankin welcomed the ruling as “a ringing endorsement of the allegations of dishonesty that the bank has been pursuing against Mr. Ablyazov since 2009.”The convoluted case of BTA versus Ablyazov vividly illustrates the explosive mix of politics and the economy in Kazakhstan. Ablyazov is a former government minister who spearheaded a 2001 reform movement that fell foul of President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Ablyazov and another leader were then imprisoned on corruption charges that many observers believed were politically motivated. Since 2009 Ablyazov and Nazarbayev’s administration have engaged in ferocious mutual mudslinging, and Ablyazov has claimed that BTA’s fraud charges are political rather than economic.Yet to Ablyazov’s critics, his refusal to comply with British court orders suggests he must have something to hide.