Kazakhstan lobby contrives a case against BTA Bank in Ukraine in order to oppress the opposition © mukhtarablyazov.org
Through the law firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners, the Kazakh party submitted to Ukrainian investigators information and personal data of accused parties; written criminal charges and requests for extradition; provided guidance to Ukrainian investigators as to who was to bedeclared wanted by Interpol; which questions should be asked during interrogations and in what manner investigations were to be conducted. After the forced nationalisation of BTA Bank in 2009, Kazakh authorities implemented a broad strategy of oppression of political opponents and their families. According to correspondence, published on the Ukrainian investigative journalism portal Trust.ua, Kazakh authorities also have influence over the consideration of the case of Tatiana Paraskevich in the Czech Republic.
Criminal cases against former executives and employees of BTA Bank were instituted in Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine. According to the version of Ukrainian investigating authorities, the Kazakh oppositionist and businessman Mukhtar Ablyazov ‘created on the territory of Ukraine an organised criminal group (OCG), which embezzled funds on a grand scale’.
The Law Firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners’ has represented the interests of BTA Bank in Ukraine since 2009 and lobbying the judicial prosecution of the participants to the case. The firm was engaged in defending the criminal charges against Mukhtar Ablyazov, Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov, Roman Solodchenko, Alexander Udovenko, Tatiana Paraskevich, Shalabayev and other participants of the so-called ‘organised criminal group’; also, it has collaborated with the Kazakh BTA Bank and the Hogan Lovells company in the course of some international trials. The firm was engaged in judicial proceedings against Ukrainian companies, involved in the case of BTA Bank, including Terra Capital, Logopark Limanskiy, Logopark Hadzhibey etc.
THE EVIDENCE OF INTERFERENCE OF THE KAZAKH PARTY IN THE WORK OF UKRAINIAN INVESTIGATIVE BODIES
Within the framework of investigative journalism, the Ukrainian portal ‘Trust.ua’ published the correspondence between the firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners’ and representatives of Kazakhstan's BTA Bank.The most important and revealing parts of correspondence can be found here.
As follows from the correspondence, employees of the firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners were mediators between the Kazakh BTA Bank and Ukrainian investigators in the process of information transfer. In this case, the Ukrainian law regarding the conditions for the provision of information was violated. According to Article 11 of the Law of Ukraine ‘On militia’, the police have the right to receive the necessary data without hindrance upon written request. In this case, however, e-mails were exchanged, which is more reminiscent of informal cooperation, bypassing the rules established by the legislation.
- On 6 May, 2010, the attorney of the firm ‘Iliyashev and Partners’, Roman Marchenko instructed his colleague, Arseniy Gerasymiv, to pass the passport details of Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov to investigator, Igor Glushchenko.
- On 14 May, 2010, Aytuar Abuseitov, an employee of BTA Bank in Kazakhstan, sent to Arseniy Gerasymiv data regarding the wife and children of Mukhtar Ablyazov, which he then forwarded to law enforcement officials, including Maksim Melnik (senior investigator of the Investigation Department of the Chief Department of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, the police chief).
- At the request of the investigator, employees of the company ‘Ilyashev and Partners’ forwarded copies of documents pertaining to Tatiana Paraskevich in order to place her on the international wanted list through the Interpol mechanism.
Such mediation goes beyond a legitimate ‘cooperation in the framework of joint investigation’ and indicates the exertion of a direct influence on investigating authorities by Kazakhstan's BTA Bank. Given that 97.3 % of its shares is owned by the Government of Kazakhstan represented by the National Welfare Fund ‘Samruk-Kazyna’, BTA Bank fully represents the position of the Kazakh authorities, who are interested in the criminal prosecution of the former managers of the bank. In this connection, the position of the Kazakh BTA Bank also reveals political overtones. Actions undertaken by the lobbyists of BTA Bank constitute a direct violation of the Criminal Procedure Code, which prohibits interference in the work of an investigator by persons who are not entitled to do so (Article 40 of the CPC).
- For example, in his letter to Ulukbek Maksatbekuul (member of the Board of BTA Bank), Roman Marchenko was inquiring: “Today, I spoke with the investigator. They want confirmation whether they should declare Zharimbetov wanted”. Ulukbek Maksatbekuul replied to his question by writing that it was‘necessary’. Later, Roman Marchenko wrote that his “instruction of 12 May, 2010 had been fulfilled”. Criminal charges were filed against Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov in absentia, and he was declared wanted by Interpol”.
- As can be seen from the correspondence, lawyers of the firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners’ held regular meetings and discussions with the Ukrainian investigative authorities, providing ‘necessary information and advice’. Thus, one of the letters reads: “Melnik is asking if it is possible to somehow certify the copy ofthe denial of guilt by Ablyazov?”.
- Moreover, members of the firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners’ produced documents for investigators(protocols, requests for extradition, indictments, questions for the interrogation of witnesses and defendants); each time, the contents of these documents were discussed with investigator, Maksim Melnikov.
- And so, Arseniy Gerasymiv created for Maksim Melnik a list of questions to be asked during the interrogations of Rifat Rizoyev, Tatiana Paraskevich, Rysbek Toktomushev etc. One of the letters, addressed to Maksim Melnik, stated: “Please find the attached file with a list of questions that can be used for the interrogation of all persons in the Republic of Kazakhstan”.
- Also, lawyers of the firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners’ produced requests for extradition and the warrants to present charges against Tatiana Paraskevich and Igor Kononkov. One of the employees of ‘Ilyashev and Partners’ prepared for Maksim Melnik requests to Interpol to provide details of the arrest of Tatiana Paraskevich as well as a motion to declare her wanted on Interpol’s website. Thus, these documents were not prepared directly by investigators, as they should have been, but with significant engagement of representatives of BTA Bank.
Previously, the Open Dialog Foundation stated in its report that the Kazakh authorities have repeatedly used the system of Interpol international search warrants to harass political opponents of the regime. The correspondence between BTA Bank and the law firm shows that the Kazakh authorities have long abused Interpol mechanisms; however, this time they acted indirectly by influencing the Ukrainian investigative authorities through BTA Bank and the law firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners’.
The influence exerted by the lawyers of BTA Bank on the investigating authorities of Kazakhstan is also confirmed by ambiguous wording in one of Roman Marchenko’s letters: “Colleagues! I am pleased to report that we have contributed to the progress of our investigators in the case of M. Ablyazov, namely: A criminal case was instituted against M. Ablyazov under Article 190, section 4 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (...) The main motive of the case is that there existed an organised criminal group of ‘Ablyazov, Zharimbetov and others’.
In addition, in a letter to investigator Maksim Melnik, lawyer of the firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners’, Arseny Gerasymiv, indicated that it would be advisable to “think about sending a letter to Interpol with a request that information about the wanted Zharimbetov be placed on Interpol’s website, as well as preparing a document for the Czechs regarding the interrogation of Paraskevich by our Czech colleagues. We will prepare the list of necessary questions”.
When sending a list of questions for the interrogation of Rifat Rizoyev, Arseniy Gerasymiv gave the following instructions to Maksim Melnik: “The interrogation must prove:
- All offshore companies were established by Ablyazov - he was the organiser; an instruction was given to establish and manage off-shore companies (please find it attached), where roles of all participants are described;
- Ablyazov is the true beneficiary of these companies;
- Ablyazov’s people managed the off-shore companies (Udovenko, Kononko, Paraskevich, Shalabayev, Khazhayev);
- The purpose of the establishment of the off-shore companies was to steal money from the bank;
- The designs were cheaper. During their financing, money was embezzled.
The extent to which BTA Bank tried to influence the Ukrainian lawyers on behalf of the Kazakh authorities can be seen in the correspondence of a bank representative, Nurzhan Kansultan and Arseniy Gerasymiv, a lawyer of the firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners’. In one of the emails, Kansultan requested that they draw up a document to the General Prosecutor of Kazakhstan with regard to one of the projects carried out on the territory of Ukraine. Said request evidently angered the Ukrainian lawyers; Roman Marchenko responded by asking: “Why in the world should WE write to the GP of the RK?”
INFLUENCE OF KAZAKHSTAN’S BTA BANK ON THE CONSIDERATION OF THE CASE OF TATIANA PARASKEVICH IN THE CZECH REPUBLIC
In the previous section, we have mentioned the incidences of attempts made by Kazakhstan's lobby to exert influence with the aim of authorising the placing of Tatiana Paraskevich on the international wanted list through Interpol’s mechanisms. We shall now dwell on the question of the correspondence, showing how the Kazakh authorities have sought the extradition of Tatiana Paraskevich from the Czech Republic and the refusal to grant her international protection in the Czech Republic.
Lawyer Ian Vanicek is a representative of BTA Bank in the Czech Republic. Back in 2012, he met with the Czech prosecutor, Vera Chekhova and persuaded her to file an appeal if the court refused to extradite Tatyana Paraskevich to Ukraine: “I convinced them to promise me that in such an event, Ms. Chekhova will submit a formal complaint against the court's decision (similar to an appeal) and the case will be referred to the High Court in Prague for a final decision”. On 5 October, 2012, and 2 January, 2013, the Regional Court in Plzen decided not to allow the rendering of Tatiana Paraskevich to Ukraine. Following the ‘agreements’ with BTA Bank, Prosecutor Vera Chekhova filed a complaint and on 21 February, 2013, the Supreme Court of the Czech Republic in Prague authorised the extradition of Tatiana Paraskevich to Ukraine.
On 18 February, 2014, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Czech Republic decided to grant Tatiana Paraskevich international protection for 1 year. On this basis, on 19 February, 2014, the Regional Court of Pilsen decided to release Tatiana Paraskevich from custody. On the same day, there was an opportunity to deliver the court's decision to the administration of the detention centre in order to immediately release Tatiana Paraskevich. However, Prosecutor Vera Chekhova again decided to file an appeal. In turn, the Supreme Court in Prague refused to release Tatiana Paraskevich from custody. The Court considers that since the international protection was granted to Tatiana Paraskevich only in respect of the Russian Federation, the Ukrainian request for extradition still needs to be considered, and until such time that it has been considered, Tatiana Paraskevich shall remain in custody.
As evidenced in the correspondence, the representative of BTA Bank, Ian Vanicek also contacted the vice-chairman of the District Court in Pilsen with regard to the fact that BTA Bank is not party to the extradition process. The lawyer persuaded the vice-chairman of the court that BTA Bank is an interested party, and so it ‘should be informed about the court proceedings’. Earlier, the Open Dialog Foundation reported that on 7 October, 2013, Ian Vanicek brought a package of documents to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Czech Republic with a view to bringing about a judgement denying the granting of international protection to Tatiana Paraskevich. The lawyer also filed an inquiry with the Department for Asylum and Migration Policy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Czech Republic, asking for information regarding the current stage of the case, and, whether the package of documents which he had provided had been or would be taken into account.
BTA Bank’s interests in the extradition of Tatiana Paraskevich are also represented by the Czech lawyer,Vojtěch Trapl. In a letter to Tatiana Paraskevich’s counsel dated 4 September, 2012, Vojtěch Trapl proposed“cooperation with the investigative bodies and BTA Bank JSC, which would involve giving truthful testimony concerning the activities of Ablyazov regarding the misappropriation of the BTA Bank funds”. In exchange, BTA Bank promised to apply to law enforcement agencies of Ukraine and Russia to withdraw the criminal charges against her.
Thus, the representative of Kazakhstan's BTA Bank has confirmed by his actions that the criminal case against Tatiana Paraskevich is just a means of inducing her to testify against the Kazakh oppositionist, Mukhtar Ablyazov, who remains the main target of the Kazakh special services. In addition, the Kazakh BTA Bank exerted pressure on the investigative and judicial authorities of the Czech Republic by providing to the Ukrainian party, fabricated materials for the extradition request.
Ukrainian investigative agencies provide their European colleagues with ‘diplomatic assurances’ that those accused in the case of BTA Bank will face “a fair trial”, they “will not be prosecuted for political reasons”, “they will not be transferred to a third country”. However, Ukrainian legislation does not provide a mechanism for monitoring compliance with the guarantees given. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian authorities are not currently able to apply an unbiased approach during the stages of pre-trial investigation and court proceedings, or protection from torture in prisons, not only to foreigners, but also to citizens of Ukraine.
The Open Dialog Foundation has repeatedly stressed that due to the close cooperation of the Kazakh authorities with Russia and Ukraine, they have clear interests in extraditing Tatiana Paraskevich and Mukhtar Ablyazov to one of these countries. The treaties between Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan allow for the possibility of extraditing wanted persons and organising joint investigations; for this reason, in the case of their rendering to Ukraine or Russia, the defendants in the case of BTA Bank may be transferred on to Kazakhstan. In addition, their kidnapping is very likely due to the close cooperation of secret services of Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan.
The Kazakh government through BTA Bank influenced the course and outcome of the investigation of the case of BTA Bank in Ukraine and the court trials in the Czech Republic. The dependence of Ukrainian investigative bodies and the impact of the Kazakh party on the Czech investigating bodies hamper an impartial and objective investigation of the case in Ukraine and Europe. The Open Dialog Foundation addressed the prosecutor of the Regional Prosecutor's Office in Pilsen, Vera Chekhova with a demand that she ceases using her authority to obstruct the release of Tatiana Paraskevich from custody. We also demand that a disciplinary investigation concerning Prosecutor Vera Chekhova be conducted due to the influence exerted on her by representatives of BTA bank.
The aforementioned facts confirm that the criminal charges against former executives and employees of BTA Bank bear clear signs of fabrication and political overtones. The Open Dialog Foundation hereby calls on the General Secretariat of Interpol, the governments and the investigating authorities of the Czech Republic, Spain, France, Great Britain, Italy, where the questions of extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov, his colleagues and relatives are being considered, to pay attention to ordered and political nature of the criminal cases, and well as to investigate the incidents of falsification of extradition requests and abuse of Interpol mechanisms.
International human rights organisations have repeatedly called on European countries to prevent the extradition from Europe of Mukhtar Ablyazov, Tatiana Paraskevich, Alexander Pavlov and other suspects in the BTA Bank case, and also noted the political nature of the persecution of Ablyazov’s wife, Alma Shalabayeva, in Italy.
We also recommend the Acting General Prosecutor of Ukraine, Oleg Makhnitskiy immediately withdraw the extradition request in the case of Mukhtar Ablyazov and other persons, accused in the trumped-up cases of BTA Bank. The new Ukrainian government, which was previously a victim of oppression by Yanukovych, is obliged to investigate the actions of a wanted former General Prosecutor, Viktor Pshonka and law enforcement officers who falsified charges against Ablyazov and his colleagues, thereby contributing totheir political persecution in Kazakhstan and Russia.