Cases in Kazakhstan
On 10 March, at a press conference, the General Prosecutor’s Office of Kazakhstan made a statement regarding Ablyazov’s indictment. Allegations were made by BTA’s new management. Former bank managers were charged with misappropriation of funds acquired through the granting of preferential loans to fictitious companies whilst repeatedly using the same land as collateral (under Article 176 section 3 of the CC of the RK - ‘misappropriation or embezzlement of another's property’).
Deputy General Prosecutor, Rakhimbek Mamyrbayev, stated that individuals and institutions continuing to remain in business relationships with Ablyazov, will be involved in the investigation. On 19 and 20 March, in Astana and Almaty, the police arrested around twenty people, closely related to Ablyazov.
On 24 March, at a press conference in Almaty, the Prosecutor's Office announced further charges. Mukhtar Ablyazov along with others holding high-ranking management positions at the bank were accused of establishing an organised criminal group (Article 235, section 4 of the CC of the RK) and legalising funds acquired illegally(Article 193, section 3 of the CC of the RK). The list of persons prosecuted included, among others: Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov (Chairman of the Credit Committee), Veronika Efimova (the head of the Corporate Client Department), Bulat Karimov (the head of the group of affiliated companies), Roman Solodchenko (the chairman of the Board). Thirty-two people were held legally responsible.
In August, the case was referred to the Prosecutor's Office of the city of Almaty. On 7 August, at a press conference, the City Prosecutor of Almaty, Amirkhan Estayev, enunciated that the organised criminal group had misappropriated over 83 billion tenge(approx. 553 million U.S. dollars). On these grounds, the seizure of Ablyazov’s property was announced and the estimated value of his assets was made public. According to the Prosecutor’s Office, the authorities seized 136 plots of land, 924 apartments, 12 houses, three aircraft and over 80 cars belonging to Ablyazov.
The defendants received sentences that were higher than those demanded by the prosecutor. None of them pleaded guilty.
On 25 December, criminal proceedings against the twelve top managers of BTA, Temirbank and affiliated companies concluded. The defendants were sentenced to terms of imprisonment which exceeded those sought by the prosecutor (sentences ranged from 2 to 8 years), none of the accused pleaded guilty.
During the trial, Ablyazov’s counsel, Salimzhan Musin, was not admitted to the case, even though he had submitted appropriate documents in the General Prosecutor’s Office of Kazakhstan. In response to the verdict, the defendants issued a public statement, read out by Mukhtar Ablyazov, Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov and Roman Solodchenko. The bankers stated that the allegation of forming a criminal group was contrived by the Kazakh authorities.
Ablyazov announced that the $10 billion embezzlement, of which he is suspected, is most likely the amount the bank lost during the introduction of the state board. The nationalisation of the bank brought about the mass offloading of shares by investors, and demands for the early repayment of loans by creditors, and during the first two weeks, the bank lost approximately $ 2 billion.
The court trial of BTA managers was covered constantly by the opposition media in Kazakhstan, which accused the government of distorting information, including that pertaining to Ablyazov’s assets. In fact, the apartments were held as collateral, which is a standard banking practice. Ablyazov confirmed that the property belonging to BTA lenders, indeed constituted collateral for a bank loan, and did not form part of his own private property.
The opposition press pointed out that the accusations were political, and judicial system in Kazakhstan is subordinate to the police, the National Security Committee and the Prosecutor’s Office. Also, the opinion of General Prosecutor was subjected to criticism, as it argued that upon nationalisation, BTA had operated with no less success than under the former management. In fact, after the takeover of the board by Samruk-Kazyna, BTA plunged into crisis.
According to members of the opposition, the reason for Ablyazov’s persecution is his public stand against the nationalisation of BTA and criticism towards government’s actions.
Oppositionists cite the reason behind Ablyazov’s prosecution in his publicly expressed protest against the nationalization of BTA and criticism of the government. Accusations of fraud were fabricated after the outbreak of the personal conflict between Ablyazov and President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Previous audits, carried out by AFN in 2008 (prior to the nationalisation) had not revealed any blatant irregularities. The General Prosecutor’s Office of the RK maintains, however, that there is no political subtext to the case, as since March 2005, the defendants have not carried out any political or social activity.
Due to potential reprisals, Mukhtar Ablyazov left for Great Britain, where he was granted political asylum in July 2011. In 2009, the new management of the nationalised BTA filed a motion with English courts, accusing Ablyazov of embezzlement of funds.