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Profile: Kazakh tycoon-dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov

Dissident Kazakh oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov is seen in Almaty in this November 27, 2006 file photo Image copyright Reuters

Kazakh business tycoon and opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov is wanted in Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine, accused of embezzling billions from a Kazakh bank.

Supporters of Ablyazov compare him with the Russian dissident Mikhail Khodorkovsky - who also made a vast personal fortune in the post-Soviet era - and claim he is similarly being targeted for using his wealth to finance opponents of the government.

Ablyazov says that he is being pursued by Kiev and Moscow on behalf of Kazakhstan, and describes the accusations against him as "no more than an attempt to criminalise legitimate business transactions".

In January 2014 a French court ruled that Ablyazov should be extradited to Russia or Ukraine. He had been arrested near Cannes in July 2013.

Kazakhstan wants to put Ablyazov - a former energy minister - on trial but has no extradition treaty with France.

Kazakhstan's BTA Bank alleges it discovered "a large scale fraud" by Ablyazov, its former chairman, while investigating a "massive hole" in the bank's balance sheets found in 2009 by auditors.

The bank has said that Ablyazov is "desperately trying to position himself as a victim of political persecution" in an attempt "to deflect attention from his criminal activity".

Political party

Ablyazov was a co-founder of the political party Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan in 2001.

He was jailed in 2002 in Kazakhstan, but was pardoned in 2003 and spent the next two years in Russia.

He then returned to Almaty, Kazakhstan's commercial capital, where he led BTA Bank until its nationalisation in 2009.

He denies accusations that he siphoned off large sums of money from the bank.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ablyazov's wife Alma Shalabayeva (left) was reunited with her elder daughter Madina in 2013 after returning to Rome following her illegal deportation from Italy

Contempt

The 50-year-old fled his native country and was later granted asylum in Britain.

But he was found guilty of contempt of court in London in February 2012, for failing to disclose his assets in the course of legal action against him by BTA Bank.

Ablyazov was given a 22-month prison sentence but instead left the UK.

BTA Bank says the High Court in London has authorised the sale of three "luxury UK properties" belonging to him, as part of the asset recovery procedure.

In total, English courts have considered 11 separate legal proceedings against Ablyazov, relating to sums totalling around $6bn (£3.7bn), according to The Lawyer magazine.

That makes it the highest-value fraud case to have been heard in the High Court, The Lawyer reports.

Since leaving Britain, Ablyazov and his family have spent time in Latvia, Switzerland and Italy.

In May 2013, the deportation of his wife and six-year-old daughter from Italy triggered a political storm there.

Italy later admitted that the expulsion was illegal and Ablyazov's wife, Alma Shalabayeva, and their daughter Alua returned to Rome in December 2013.

The couple also have three older children.

Human Rights Watch says that Ablyazov, if returned to Kazakhstan, would be "at serious risk of ill-treatment and would face a flagrant denial of his fair trial rights".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The couple's youngest child Alua was deported from Italy with her mother

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