There have been a few interesting twists and turns lately in the fortunes of some implacable foreign-based foes of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
London-based oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov is on the up – he’s currently rejoicing over news that the UK authorities have agreed to grant him political asylum, a development that’s sure to enrage Astana.
“Mr Ablyazov’s application for political asylum was based on the fact that if he were to return to Kazakhstan he would be persecuted because of his political opinions,” RLF Partnership Ltd., which represents Ablyazov’s interests, said in a statement e-mailed on July 12.
Backing his claims, Ablyazov points to a prison sentence he served in Kazakhstan in the early 2000s on corruption charges. He was imprisoned shortly after becoming a founder member of a political reform movement.
He’s been based in London since BTA Bank, which he chaired and owned, was forcibly nationalized by the Kazakh government in 2009.
BTA is now suing Ablyazov – who denies any wrongdoing – in London’s High Court, alleging that he defrauded the bank of $295 million. But in a setback to his case, earlier this month a witness admitted lying in court, the London Evening Standard reported.
Last month his brother-in-law Syrym Shalabayev – who failed to appear before a London hearing – was found to be in contempt of court in absentia and sentenced to two concurrent 18-month prison sentences and a six-month suspended term.
Another Nazarbayev foe, former son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev, has found himself in legal hot water in Austria, where he’s under investigation on charges of murder and kidnapping, the Guljan news website reports.
In June Kazakhstan opened a murder case against Aliyev after the bodies surfaced of two bankers he’s already been found guilty by a Kazakh court of kidnapping. Austria has previously refused to extradite Aliyev to Kazakhstan on the grounds that he wouldn’t face a fair trial. He was tried in absentia in 2008 on charges ranging from abduction to coup plotting and sentenced to a total of 40 years in prison.
The likelihood of Austria putting Aliyev on trial is slim. He may have once been based in Vienna but his current whereabouts are unclear; rumors are swirling that he’s hiding out in Malta.