Growing tremors from the May deportation of the wife of fugitive oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov to Kazakhstan are offering fresh threat to Italy's shaky governing coalition, and putting Kazakh/Italian relations under strain.
Italian opposition leaders on July 15 called on Interior Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Angelino Alfano to resign as the political storm escalates over the deportation of Alma Shalabayeva and her six-year-old daughter. Italian Prime Minister Enrico Letta said he will investigate the issue and bring those responsible to justice.
The Left Ecology Freedom and the 5-Star Movement submitted a motion of no-confidence in Alfano to the lower house of parliament and the Senate on July 15, Gazzetta del Sud reports. They accuse Alfano, an ally of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, of allowing the deportation of Ablyazov's wife and daughter despite Kazakhstan's dubious record on human rights and treatment of prisoners.
The opposition say they do not believe the deportations took place without the knowledge of Alfano and other government ministers. There is also speculation that the issue was discussed between Berlusconi and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev at a meeting on July 6. However, the former Italian PM denies that allegation.
Alfano, a member of Berlusconi's People of Freedom party, which is part of the fragile government coalition, is due to answer questions about the deportations at a parliament session on July 18. Letta told Il Corriere della Sera: "Those responsible will have to answer for their mistake." He announced on July 10 that an investigation into the deportations has been launched.
Shalabayeva was arrested on the evening of May 28 at her home in Rome, and she and her daughter were flown to Kazakhstan on a private jet on May 29. The Italian government has already said on July 12 that the deportations have been reversed, and that Shalabayeva and her daughter can return to Italy. However, the Kazakhstani authorities say that she will not be allowed to return.
According to Kazakh prosecutors, Shalabayeva was in possession of a forged Central African Republic passport in the name of Ayan Alma. She has since been given a non-custodial sentence for using a fake passport, and is not allowed to leave Almaty.
Shalabayeva said in an 18-page testimony about the deportation, published in the Financial Times, that around 50 people had carried out the raid on her home. "A swarm of 30-35 people burst into the house," she says in the statement, adding the men involved were "gangster-like" in plainclothes and carrying pistols.
Ablyazov left Kazakhstan in March 2009 shortly after BTA - until the crisis Kazakhstan's largest bank - was nationalized in a bid to ward off collapse. The bank's new management is now pursuing Ablyazov and his associates through the British courts in an attempt to reclaim assets worth around $6bn.
Ablyazov maintains his innocence and says that he was set up by senior Kazakh officials. However, the court rulings have so far gone against him, and in early 2012 he fled the UK to avoid being arrested for contempt.
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