Who is Mukhtar Ablyazov?

Few will have heard of Mukhtar Ablyazov, but the accusations towards him of embezzlement and fraud are spread far and wide. A now fallen and fugitive former politician, running from persistent criminal allegations, his story is one that brings intrigue and mystery to those who may never have heard of him, as one Kazakh voice recalls…

“The name Mukhtar Ablyazov, the exiled oligarch who set up a transnational criminal organisation that is wanted by the law-enforcement agencies of the UK, Russia, Kazakhstan and Ukraine, is well known to many fans of crime fiction. And many look upon the life this man led as if it were entertaining light reading, a serial of many episodes with a complicated plot.

So who is this Ablyazov? Somebody who amassed capital during the difficult times during the transition to independence of one of the post-Soviet republics.  A politician who led a pseudo-opposition movement whose activities boiled down to protecting the money he had stolen, but which did not protect him from imprisonment. While in prison he received a pardon from the head of state and did not remain there for even a quarter of his sentence. A businessman who after release from prison took up the post of chairman of BTA Bank, one of Kazakhstan’s largest financial institutions. And finally, a thief, who could not be kept from his dubious transactions by either threats of further imprisonment or by a senior position. Ablyazov’s criminal activities were such that for a number of years while managing the bank he laundered the lion’s share of its assets through offshore companies. All told, this amounted to some five billion dollars.

The second episode of this adventurous epic began with our oligarch seeking cover on the shores of misty Albion. This story is itself somewhat enigmatic. Contrary to logic and common sense, he was treated kindly by the UK and granted political asylum. It was at this time, at the suggestion of his new masters, that a real war of information against Kazakhstan became apparent.  In London meanwhile, secretly and sluggishly, court investigations were being held into his financial crimes. Only much later did the legal process, choked as it was with improbable details, start to engage the attention of the public who already knew the real extent of his fraudulent activity.

It is worth pointing out that, in no small way thanks to Ablyazov, Kazakhstan occupies second place, jointly with Switzerland, only to the USA in ensuring the job security of British lawyers. And what is that if not good business? Indeed the result is a highly lucrative operation. And the longer the litigation drags on, the better. Who after all needs oil and gas if they have such a highly profitable source of income as this? Clearly, in such conditions, any criminal – provided they are in the money to a sufficient degree – can reckon on the most impartial system of justice in the world. It is interesting that Britain, thus inspired by billionaires on the run, has initiated legal reforms that increased the legal costs for large-scale commercial proceedings.

So now, consider the revenue if eleven separate court hearings were being held for Ablyazov’s proceedings alone, in which, according to some sources, between 50 and 100 of Britain’s best lawyers were involved. Under such conditions it is quite extraordinary how misty Albion nevertheless changed its attitude towards Ablyazov, who was to all intents and purposes one of the country’s biggest employers of lawyers. Despite the efforts of his army of advocates he was sentenced initially to 22 months’ imprisonment and subsequently stripped altogether of the right to judicial defence.

Here I would say that my original impression was that there were certain forces supporting Ablyazov. Today, though, it is clear that his file is closed. Let us begin with his flight from Britain. When the High Court in London issued its decision to place him in custody, he went into hiding in France. However, not even this speaks of the demise of Ablyazov as a political player. Testament to this are, firstly, the fact that almost all his partners in crime had already been detained by law-enforcement agencies. One of his accomplices, suspected of organising a terrorist act in Almaty, was arrested in Spain. The Czech Republic issued a decision to extradite Tatyana Paraskevich, the financial director of IPG Evraziya, who was on the wanted list of the Ukrainian police in relation to investigations concerning embezzlement at BTA Bank of US$4 million.

In Kazakhstan, 45 people have been brought to justice in relation to the Mukhtar Ablyazov case. In Russia four senior managers of the company Evraziya Logistik have been sentenced to 8 or 9 years for involvement in laundering funds of BTA Bank. And recently the investigations department of the Russian Ministry of the Interior completed an inquiry into a case against the joint owner of the Delo leasing company, Dmitry Pak, and his general director Oleg Tsarev, who are accused of fraud on an exceptionally large scale and of legalising income obtained criminally.

The essence of the fraud here is that the leasing company received altogether 70 loans from BTA Bank amounting to US$70 million, the traces of which subsequently disappeared into offshore companies. As a result, the recipient of the loan repayments was not BTA Bank but a Cypriot company, Kimos, whose origins are unknown.

By the way, the patterns of Ablyazov’s criminal machinations using offshore companies became the subject of an independent investigation by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). According to the data published, 31 companies were registered in Ablyazov’s interest on the British Virgin Islands. Ablyazov laundered bank funds through 25 of these companies between 2005 and 2009.

And this is probably the clearest indication that the oligarch has now lost all support. Yet what is this International Consortium of Investigative Journalists? It is a structure in which persons of influence in the West call the tunes.

The ICIJ’s central office is located in Washington, DC. Two of its main donors are the Open Society Foundations founded by George Soros and the Tides Foundation.

The activities of the ICIJ has a clear pro-Western orientation. So it is not a coincidence that its selection of information focuses on China, the Russian Federation and the former Soviet republics. And the fact that Ablyazov has been amalgamated with the rest is highly symptomatic of this. This is probably the latest and last attempt to use him in an effort to achieve certain political interests. Mentioning Ablyazov and other similar fugitive oligarchs may add plausibility to discreditable data. Such schemes appear ideal for manipulating public opinion, not least for discrediting people who are in no way guilty. It is a known tactic and a familiar policy.

Now, if somebody in the West supported Ablyazov, he would today be on his own. But as is well known, one cannot conquer alone. Moreover the money needed to hire a new guard on the previous scale is simply no longer there. Even Ablyazov’s property in the UK is up for auction. Recently the High Court in London issued a final recovery order that empowers the management company, KPMG, to sell three luxury-category properties belonging to Ablyazov – a mansion in north London, over 40 hectares of land near Windsor and a flat in the St Johns area of London.

And who knows, maybe just tomorrow Interpol will finally wake up and find the fugitive…”

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