Respublika: Super-Khan’s bodyguards - people who work for Akorda
This article is the result of many months’ investigative journalism by ‘Respublika’. It contains a description of the organisational structure, by which Nazarbayev and his top aides - Karim Massimov and Timur Kulibayev are fighting Mukhtar Ablyazov and his associates outside the borders of Kazakhstan. We believe that readers, like us, will be impressed by the scale of these activities- in our opinion, world history has never seen anything like that.
More than five years have passed since the capture of BTA Bank by the Administration of the President of Kazakhstan and the forced flight from the country of the prominent opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov. However, the Kazakh authorities had begun to prepare for the seizure of the bank and the removal of the politician long before that time, i.e. in the summer of 2008, when Ablyazov’s key meeting with the authorised representative of Nursultan Nazarbayev - Karim Massimov, was held.
At that time, Massimov held the post of Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan. He openly demanded from Ablyazov that he transfered to Nazarbayev the controlling stake of BTA Bank; his demand was refused.
It was after this meeting in the summer of 2008 that Nazarbayev ordered the government and the National Bank to capture BTA Bank and deprive Ablyazov of his control over it. Bulat Utemuratov, whom Nazarbayev gave instructions to negotiate with Ablyazov over the transfer of the shares of BTA to the president’s trustees, was pushed aside, and the case was taken over by Timur Kulibayev and Karim Massimov’s people.
On 2 February, 2009, along with the new state-appointed senior managers, the offices of BTA Bank were visited by workers of the Committee of National Security, who immediately began to seize documents and electronic media. A little later, detentions of BTA Bank workers and seizures of companies who had been granted credit by BTA Bank.
The system of persecution of Mukhtar Ablyazov has evolved gradually. For example, the prosecution in Kazakhstan was consistently performed by employees of the National Security Committee, special prosecutors of the General Prosecutor’s Office of Kazakhstan and staff of the Agency for Combating Economic and Corruption Crimes of the RK (financial police).
In the context of the authoritarian political system, Nursultan Nazarbayev has full control over all branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. This allows him to single-handedly decide the fate of any man within the reach of the Kazakh authorities. However, apart from the official reprisals by the prosecutors and through court judgments, Kazakhstan engineers reprisals against political opponents with the help of secret assassins.
Every citizen of Kazakhstan who has escaped the reprisals of Nazarbayev (who for 25 years has served as head of state), and such a renowned politician and businessman as Mukhtar Ablyazov the more so, by the mere fact that he is at large and continues to fight for a democratic way of development of the country, undermines the fears of the dictator and thus weakens his regime.
To date, the prosecution of Ablyazov and his associates, in criminal and civil trials is being carried out in dozens of countries, the key countries being Russia and the United Kingdom. Russia - because this country is home to a significant portion of Ablyazov’s assets, United Kingdom - because it was there that BTA Bank filed civil claims against Ablyazov and a number of his colleagues and assistants.
ʺThey fought for their countryʺ
In Russia, the prosecution of Mukhtar Ablyazov began upon Nursultan Nazarbayev’s personal request to the then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. An appropriate protocol instruction marked ‘Secret’, commanding the rendering of assistance to Kazakh security forces, dates back to the summer of 2009.
Currently, all the organisational work in this area is coordinated by the aide of the president of the RF, Shkolov, Putin's trusted man, whom he has known since the days working in the Russian foreign intelligence service in the GDR. The criminal case of BTA Bank is run by the Investigation Committee, and now the Department of the Interior Ministry of the RF. Since the opening of a criminal case, most of the work on the case has been performed by three investigators. Two of them were caught by the FSB of the Russian Federation engaging in informal communication with representatives of BTA Bank, were found to be in receipt of illegal remuneration from them, and subsequently dismissed.
A third investigator, N.N. Budilo, has become famous for his participation in the prosecution of the Russian lawyer Magnitsky, who died in prison. The death of the latter brought about strong repercussions in Europe and the United States; the US enacted a corresponding law, which was named after Magnitsky and became, in fact, the first instance of Western sanctions against Russian officials to break the law.
Communication between the Kazakh authorities and Budilo took place by virtue of two proxies - Kazakh diplomat accredited to the Embassy in Moscow, Anatoliy Konstantinov, former First Deputy General Prosecutor of Kazakhstan, and Shaken Amzeyev, according to some sources, an employee of the Kazakh special services.
More than a dozen Russian legal entities have collaborated with Amzeyev, representatives of BTA Bank and Samruk-Kazyna (a government agency, which from February 2009 to July 2014 held the state-owned shares of BTA Bank).
The most active and influential of these was the Russian firm Quorum Debt Management (‘Quorum’). This company is headed by Andrey Pavlov, known as the leader of the group whose members also participated in the Magnitsky case.
Pavlov was engaged in the case by a Dmitry Klyuev, who had begun the process of prosecution of Ablyazov in Russia. He was also involved in the case regarding the assassination of Magnitsky.
In addition to Pavlov’s firm, several other law firms are suspected of raider attacks: ‘Leader’ and ‘Atlant XXI’ have actively worked against Mukhtar Ablyazov and his associates in Russia.
This year, BTA Bank was, in a very perculiar way, ‘sold’ by the State Fund ‘Samruk-Kazyna’ to the second largest bank ‘Kazkommertsbank’ and Kenes Rakishev - one of the closest partners of the president’s son-in-law, Timur Kulibayev.
Taking into consideration that in most business projects, Rakishev acts as a figure head, secretly representing Kulibayev, we can undoubtedly cite Kulibayev as one of the main owners of the illegally nationalised BTA Bank.
Former controlling owner, Nurzhan Subkhanberdin, gradually lost control of his commercial credit bank and therefore, with regard to BTA Bank, he follows the instructions of Karim Masimov and supports the ‘party line’ in the persecution of Ablyazov.
In BTA, Kenes Rakishev personally oversees the actions against Mukhtar Ablyazov. And he reports on developments to Masimov personally.
For the performance of the direct work connected with the prosecution of Mukhtar Ablyazov and the surveillance of Rakishev, Masimov appointed two key figures with whom Rakishev should work. He introduced Murat Eshenkulov in the so-called Council of the Bank (http://www.bta.am/ru/management). Before his appointment by the bank, Lieutenant Colonel Eshenkulov was the head of the directorate of financial police of Pavlodar Province. The second key individual Masimov appointed for communication with Eshenkulov, was a Major of the financial police, Olzhas Ertysbayev.
Currently, Olzhas Yertysbayev is engaged in the criminal case against Ablyazov and his associates in Russia. The Russian scheme works as follows: Akorda formulates strategic objectives which its envoys voice to the ‘Quorum’. Andrey Pavlov from ‘Quorum’ oversees all the work with the Russian security agencies, maintaining constant communication with Budilo, for whom Pavlov prepared the basic materials of the case. In addition to working with Russian and Kazakh security forces, Pavlov also maintains links with Western lawyers from the international company ‘Hogan Lovells’.
Truly speaking, Murat Eshenkulov has recently begun to push away the lawyers of ‘Quorum’, ‘Leader’ and ‘Atlanta XXI’, replacing them with ‘his own’ lawyers from the law firm ‘Oskirko and Partners’. Eshenkulov has even begun to actively withdraw Andrey Pavlov from all processes, as he was a key link between the Kazakh customers and the Russian contractor - a group of investigators headed by Budilo. It is very important for the new management of BTA, as the old management and the lawyers, employed by them, will be a convenient ‘scapegoat’ who can be blamed for all the failures in Russia.
Introducing new lawyers also allows the taking of control of the huge budget, allocated to Russia for the war against Ablyazov. To date in fact, only ‘Oskirko and Partners’ have received a full mandate for the war on behalf of BTA.
ʹThe ʹabroadʹ will help usʹ
The international law firm Hogan Lovells is the main contractor of ‘BTA Bank’ in the UK. At the same time, it is used by the Kazakh authorities as the centre of control of a network of international law firms which protect the interests of Akorda in the West. This is the very company which executes proceedings against Ablyazov in London.
Formally, it represents ‘BTA Bank’. In reality, BTA is just a facade, a handy tool for Akorda’s actions in the jurisdiction of Great Britain. BTA, acting as a victim of Mukhtar Ablyazov’s alleged fraud, creates an aura of legitimacy for the persecution of Ablyazov by Nazarbayev.
Currently, lawyers from Hogan Lovells are actively trying to convince the law enforcement bodies of England to open a criminal case against Mukhtar Ablyazov. Hogan Lovells’ budgets for the war against Ablyazov boggle the imagination of all lawyers. Over four years, Kazakhstan has spent more than 100 million pounds on services provided by this company. In addition, two other law firms hired by Akorda have fought against Mukhtar Ablyazov: Reed Smith and Ronald Fletcher Baker. They are striving to induce the British authorities to revoke Mukhtar Ablyazov’s political refugee status. Reed Smith is also actively working to discredit Ablyazov in the West, coordinating all of the extradition processes. In line with Hogan Lovells, Reed Smith indirectly endeavours to influence the law-enforcement authorities in England so that they institute a criminal case against Mukhtar Ablyazov.
Reed Smith has already provided legal services to Akorda when in November, 2013, through the International Centre for Investment Disputes (Arbitration Court at the World Bank), it successfully brought about a refusal to consider claims filed by one of Ablyazov’s companies against Kazakh authorities. Then it opened an office in Astana, citing the brilliant prospects in the country’s commodity sector.
The Reed Smith company has reasons to rejoice - in 2013, for example, Kazakhstan paid the law firm 12.5 mln. dollars. This year, given the extradition process in France, Reed Smith’s outlook is even more optimistic.
Hogan Lovells’ work and BTA Bank’s success during the consideration of their civil claims in a British court, was supported by Tony Blair, who has served as the principal foreign policy adviser to Nazarbayev since autumn 2011. Along with Blair, Akorda is now supported by the efforts of the entire team of the former Prime Minister of Great Britain.
Fostering Kazakhstan's good reputation in the West is a responsibility of a PR and lobbying company Portland Communication, established by a long-term public relations advisor to Blair, Tim Allen. Yet Portland didn’t enter into a contract with the government, but with BTA Bank, thus distancing itselffrom Akorda. Among Portland’s employees, operating on the Kazakh front, is Alastair Campbell, the very man who led Tony Blair to leadership of the Labour Party and later the country. It seems that Tony Blair has been working with Nazarbayev and his entourage very successfully as he understands how to do business ‘Kazakh style’. For example, the Omnia Strategy company, chaired by Cherie Blair, the wife of Tony Blair, signed a contract with the Ministry of Justice of Kazakhstan to represent the interests of the country. And the first fundamental decision against Mukhtar Ablyazov was taken by British judge, William Blair – Tony Blair’s older brother.
After Mukhtar Ablyazov was arrested in France, the Kazakh authorities initiated their first actions in this country. In France, in the extradition case of Mukhtar Ablyazov, an active role has been played by French lawyer Antoine Lévy, well-known thanks to his father, Bernard-Henri Lévy, a popular French philosopher and activist, who actively declares war against tyranny throughout the world.
Prior to the commencement of hearings in the case of Ablyazov, Lévy Jr. worked in a small French company Metzner Associés, but literally, within four months of the arrest of Ablyazov in France, thirty-year-old Antoine became one of the youngest partners in Hogan Lovells ( in order to become a partner in Hogan Lovells, one ordinarily needs to work for ten years on average).Antoine Lévy is an ambitious young lawyer with an impeccable reputation throughout society, and with ties to the elite, which very few people in Europe have, he is one of the most valuable acquisitions of Hogan Lovells and, accordingly, their real client - the Nazarbayev regime, unifying for the war with the opposition.
Since the request for Ablyazov‘s extradition was filed by Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, and with the chances of the latter meeting the requirements remaining slim, due to the absence of an extradition agreement, the Kazakh authorities are striving to act with the hands of their Russian and Ukrainian counterparts. In the first trial, it was ordered that Ablyazov be rendered both to Russia and Ukraine, with the former having priority.
However, after the breakout of the Ukrainian crisis and the sharp deterioration of Russia's relations with the United States and Europe (European Union), the Kazakh authorities have focused on Ukraine. Previously, Nursultan Nazarbayev asked the former President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych personally for help in the pursuit of Ablyazov, and he obliged.
The key player in Ukraine, representing the interests of the Kazakh authorities is the law firm ‘Ilyashev and Partners’, which in Ukraine performs the same function as ‘Quorum’ in Russia.
In turn, in order to participate in the process of extradition, ‘Ilyashev’ hired Winston & Strawn to represent Ukraine. It is a well-known international law firm, founded in 1853 in Chicago. The company was hired by an ordinary Ukrainian investigator, Nikolay Melnik, whom his supervisors instructed to ‘investigate’ into the case of BTA Bank. It was he who, having exceeded his powers, allowed a foreign law firm to have access to the case file and giving them permission ‘to participate in the case of Ablyazov in France and carry out all actions aimed at Ablyazov's extradition to Ukraine’, thus violating the laws of Ukraine.
Ukraine's state budget was not prepared to pay Western lawyers for their participation in the process of extradition. Therefore, BTA through ‘Ilyashev and Partners’ kindly offered to pay the due amounts to ‘Winston & Strawn’. Of course the provision of such services violates the anti-corruption legislation of Ukraine, but who cares?
In August 2014, the law enforcement agencies of Ukraine opened a criminal case against investigator Melnik for the issuance of permission for Winston & Strawn to participate in the extradition process.
"My name is Wahid, Ron Wahid"
Another front in the war waged against Ablyazov was formed by Akorda from the so-called private intelligence companies (PIC), which operating on a global scale, provide so-called ‘operational support’ to law firms.
In practice, this means that they shadow Ablyazov’s family members and associates, contrive provocations, hack email accounts and tap phones, send viruses and organise kidnappings. They also undertake responsibility for ‘negotiating’ on criminal prosecution in the cases where law enforcement authorities are reluctant to open a criminal case due to a lack of jurisdiction, victims or elements of a crime in general. Given that almost all employees of PIC are former members of law enforcement agencies or intelligence agencies, they know exactly how to do it, and often guarantee the desired result.
Initially, the Diligence corporation, founded by former employees of the CIA and the British MI5, worked with Akorda in this field. For the war against Mukhtar Ablyazov, Diligence hired Hogan Lovells, which established close contact with them during the war, unleashed by the‘Alfa Group’, in exchange for control of the Russian mobile operator ‘Megaphone’ with the IPOC fund.
Recently, all the operative work in the West was entrusted by Akorda to a different PIC - Arcanum. It is based in Zurich, but is part of the American investment group RJI Capital Group, known for its aggressive strategy in global emerging markets.
The RJI Capital Group was founded by Ron Wahid, an American citizen, born in Bangladesh. Ron Wahid is lover of women, bespoke tailors and private aircraft; he is very selective when choosing clients and takes only highly lucrative projects. But for his price, he guarantees high quality; Wahid and the company can perform virtually anyundertakings that the client needs. If the person does not want to get their hands dirty, they will always find the adequate performers.
To some extent, Kazakh civil society should be grateful to Wahid. According to our informers, in 2008, it was his company that gained access to the server, owned by Alexander Mirchev’s companies, as well as his personal mail account. At that moment, they carried out the order of one of Karim Masimov’s personal opponents.
Among the collected material, the Arcanum workers discovered the correspondence between Mirchev and his team and civil servants from Astana regarding the project ‘SuperKhan’. Wahid’s client wasn’t interested in the correspondence. He needed information about other aspects of Mirchev’s activity. Then Wahid, demonstrating the presence of insider information, advertising his services and possibilities of his office, began to demonstrate the texts of the projects: ‘SuperTiger’, ‘Khan’ and ‘SuperKhan’ to everyone who even slightly showed interest in Kazakhstan.
In this way, the information about the project ‘SuperKhan’ was leaked to the opposition media in Kazakhstan and became known to society as one of the paranoid projects of the ‘Leader of the nation’, aimed at usurping power in the country.
The main ‘advisor’ of Arcanum is Mair Dagan, who for eight years has been the head of Mossad, while the American direction is a responsibility of the former national security adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, John Hannah.
Incidentally, according to our information, it was Arcanum, in parallel with other PICs, which developed a plan to kidnap Alma Shalabayeva and her daughter in Rome. And it is this company which now provides operational research to all Akorda lawyers, employed in various roles in the war against Mukhtar Ablyazov.
Interestingly, the Nazarbayev regime finances Arcanum through Western lawyers. It is they who, as agents of Kazakhstan, receive invoices from Arcanum and make payments. Thus, there is no formal connection between the Government of Kazakhstan and its actual ‘hired’ spies. Structures, such as Arcanum, can perform any work for Kazakhstan in the West without any risk to the client should they are caught red-handed, contrary to the agents of the foreign intelligence agency ‘Sarbar’.
Instead of an epilogue
The issues described in this article constitute merely a small fragment of the actions Nazarbayev's regime undertakes in order to eliminate Mukhtar Ablyazov. ‘Killing Mukhtar’ has become just about a national-level goal for Akorda. Those who strive for its implementation, do not want to think about the rationale behind it. For example, about the fact that the root of the conflict between Ablyazov and Nazarbayev is ideological: Ablyazov believes in the political and economic competition, while Nazarbayev – doesn’t. Mukhtar Ablyazov has always embodied all that the decrepit president fears; a brilliant manager and businessman, owes nothing to Nazarbayev‘s regime; a patriot and an ardent supporter of democratic values, for many years, putting his life at stake, he was a secret ideologue of the opposition and, in fact, its sole sponsor. Ablyazov, therefore, must be destroyed. At any cost.
EDITORIAL NOTE. This is the first in a series of investigative journalism articles. We will continue the story about some of the aforementioned Akorda contractors in our future publications.
08French weekly Le Point on the Kazakh regime and its opponents
03An open letter to president Francois Hollande from representatives from the Kazakh opposition
01Lejdd.fr: Hollande will pay an official visit to Kazakhstan
14France to extradite Ablyazov on Moscow's request. Mediapart about his case.
14France to extradite Ablyazov on Moscow's request. Mediapart about his case.
Interview with Mukhtar Ablyazov
Mukhtar Ablyazov on Nazarbayev’s Letter
Ablyazov’s memories: how he dropped out of school and got into business
Mukhtar Ablyazov with family
Why Spain Allow to Torture People?
- In a shocking decision, French Government Decrees Extradition of Kazakh dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov to Russia (.pdf, 0.42 MB)
- Ukrainian deputy V. Kupriy calls on the parliament and the government of France to stand up against extradition of M. Ablyazov (., 0 MB)
- Ukrainian deputy V. Kupriy calls on the parliament and the government of France to stand up against extradition of M. Ablyazov (., 0 MB)
- Kazakhstan: stage-managed elections against the backdrop of the authorities’ crackdown on dissent (.pdf, 0.14 MB)
- Ukraine assists post-Soviet states with the persecution of political opponents and refugees (.pdf, 12.69 MB)