A rally held this week in front of the mayor’s office in Almaty is a fresh reminder of how property continues to be a generator of public discontent in Kazakhstan.
Complaints this time revolved around a case of realty fraud perpetrated by a woman called Firuza Ordabayeva, who posed as an Almaty city hall employee offering citizens cheap apartments as part of a purported government program.
Ordabayeva was sentenced to six and a half years in jail last week for the scheme, which prosecutors say saw her swindling unsuspecting hopeful home-buyers of $5 million. The 20 or so families that mustered outside the Mayor Baurzhan Baybek’s offices on April 12 are now fearful they will be evicted and left on the streets.
News website Ratel.kz explained in its account of Ordabayeva’s scheme that people were defrauded in a number of ways. The schemes involved committing buyers to paying down deposits against the promise of preferential terms further down the line, only for monthly repayment bills to be steeply hiked without warning.
And since people typically moved into the apartments after transferring their deposits, they tried to continue keeping up payments to avoid eviction.
“We gave money and immediately we were given keys from the apartment, did some repairs [in the apartment] and lived there,” one home-buyer, Dilnar Insenova, told Ratel.kz.
The victims of the fraud are now appealing to the Almaty mayor to intervene and make sure they are not evicted.
Although Baybek did not come out to meet the rally participants himself, his deputy offered assurances on the mayor’s behalf that no evictions would happen. A representative for the building company who houses were sold through the fraud schemes also confirmed that they would halt evictions, while still grumbling that “some have not paid us for almost a year.”
Realty fraud is rife in Kazakhstan and unscrupulous con-artists are spoilt for choice in looking for naive people ill-informed about either their legal rights or the proper procedure for buying property. In one particularly brazen case in 2014, a group of fraudsters created to their own notary office to reassure victims of their scams by producing reassuring looking, but fake, paperwork.