Kazakhstan proceeds with court pursuit of Trump-linked ex-Almaty mayor

By bne IntelliNews April 3, 2017

Kazakhstan’s justice ministry has informed Almaty city hall it can proceed with a court demand for compensation from former top official Viktor Khrapunov who is accused of looting state funds, it said in a March 31 statement.

The Kazakh ministry argued in the US appeals court that it was entitled to file a suit against Khrapunov as he has left himself open to anti-corruption legislation in California by investing some of the funds into properties there.

Kazakhstan’s filings have estimated Khrapunov’s worth at around $320mn-$430mn. Its accusations also allege a link between Khrapunov and companies owned by US President Donald Trump and his Trump SoHo hotel-condominium in New York.

The development follows a verdict from the US Court of Appeal for the Ninth Circuit on March 30, which overturned an earlier ruling given by the US District Court for the Central District of California.

Khrapunov was head of Kazakhstan’s energy and coal industry ministry in 1995 and served as mayor of Almaty between 1997-2004. He then served as governor of the East Kazakhstan region until 2007, when he was appointed emergency services minister before resigning after 10 months. He subsequently left for Switzerland.

Since then he has been the subject of 20 investigations in Kazakhstan, although it is widely theorised that Astana’s pursuit of Khrapunov is linked to Kazakh fugitive banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, presently a high-profile target of the Kazakh government. Khrapunov is the father-in-law of the eldest daughter of Ablyazov, who is also accused of embezzling money.

The Financial Times cited lawyers for Almaty as saying that among the limited liability companies used by Khrapunov to launder money, three were linked to real estate developed by companies belonging to Trump. These companies were labelled Soho 3310, Soho 3311 and Soho 3203.

“The companies were created in April 2013 in New York. A week later, property records show, they paid a total of $3.1 [million] to buy the apartments that corresponded with their names in the Trump Soho, a 46-storey luxury hotel-condominium completed in 2010 in a chic corner of Manhattan,” the newspaper reported.

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