Fugitive banker Ablyazov given 20 years by Almaty court in-absentia trial

By bne IntelliNews June 8, 2017

An in-absentia trial of Kazakh fugitive banker Mukhtar Ablyazov sentenced him on June 7 to 20 years in prison for crimes including the theft of pension assets and savings.

Ablyazov is a former head of BTA Bank. Kazakh sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna took over BTA Bank in 2009 and subsequently accused Ablyazov and his subordinates of siphoning off $5bn from the lender. On 7 June, an Almaty court convicted him of abusing office, organising and leading a criminal group, financial mismanagement and embezzlement. Ablyazov reportedly called the trial a farce.

According to the charges, Ablyazov has allegedly stolen pension assets and personal savings as well as loans received from foreign financial institutions, causing damages estimated at $7.5bn.

The trial included three lesser-known co-defendants of Ablyazov in the courtroom, with one of the co-defendants pleading guilty and two pleading partially guilty. One was given 15 years in prison - the other two were granted suspended sentences.

Ablyazov initially fled Kazakhstan to the UK where he was granted political asylum. After a UK court issued an order to arrest him for contempt of court, he ran away to France.

In 2013, Ablyazov was arrested in France after 18 months in hiding. He was released from jail on December 9 last year after France's highest administrative court cancelled an order for his extradition to Russia, based on Ablyazov’s claims that the whole case against him is politically motivated.

An extradition to Russia would mean the immediate surrendering of Ablyazov to Kazakhstan, Ablyazov has claimed.

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