Le Monde: A French tribunal allows the extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov to Russia
© mukhtarablyazov.org 16.01.2014

Piotr Smolar

This is a big surprise. A French tribunal has estimated, on 9 January, that Ukraine and Russia provided sufficient guarantees, in terms of State law, to extradite to these countries the Kazakh banker, Mukhtar Ablyazov, suspected of considerable financial offences.  This Chamber, two years earlier, had taken a different decision in a similar case concerning a Russian businessman.

The case is of exceptional dimensions, both due to the magnitude of the sums involved as well as the political background. Held in custody at Aix-Luynes (Bouches-du-Rhône) since August 1, 2013, Mukhtar Ablyazov is suspected of large-scale fraud at the expense of BTA bank, which he led from 2005 to 2009. Mr. Ablyazov considers this a "hunting expedition for a politician" launched against him by Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, when he became an outspoken opponent after having been a minister. 

The total damage would amount to nearly $ 6 billion (4.4 billion euros) according to BTA, which seeks to recover these funds. This included eleven complaints filed before the High Court of Justice of England, who ruled in BTA’s favour. "The interest of the BTA is the recovery of assets and the fact that Mr. Abliazov is accountable, says Mr. Antonin Levy, a lawyer in France of the bank. Given his decision to avoid the civil proceedings in Britain and become a fugitive, there was no other choice than to pursue criminal proceedings, through the Russian and Ukrainian courts. "

Thus the investigating chamber of the Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence had to decide on an extradition request by the two countries where Mr. Ablyazov was accused of economic offences, through a myriad of offshore companies. Both judgments of January 9 validate these requests, giving priority to Russia for the damage suffered. There was only one requirement: no forced labour sentence for Mr. Ablyazov, who already has a cell reserved in Colony No. 6 in the Ryazan region, a hundred kilometers from Moscow. On Monday, his lawyers filed for a suspensive appeal. They fear that Russia will extradite him in turn to Kazakhstan, a politically- friendly country. 


According to the investigating chamber, the surrender of Mr. Ablyazov to his country of origin "cannot happen on several grounds of international law." The status of political refugee obtained by him in UK would protect him against being subjected to such a measure. But the most explosive argument, adopted by the Chamber, concerns the right of Mr. Ablyazov to a fair trial.

Despite quite a few issues, Russian justice offers sufficient guarantees in the eyes of the French Court of Appeal of Aix. Naivety, ignorance or bad faith: the judgment provides a complaisant vision of the Russian judicial system that is rarely seen. These arguments are also repeated in the case concerning Ukraine.

« To consider in a general manner (…) that the Russian judicial system does not ensure fundamental guarantees of the process and protection of rights of defence is not a conclusion to be made just because of particular cases, even if numerous, where the Russian state was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights.”, said the court. There was also a paragraph where the “perfectible nature of all judicial systems” was quoted. 


The Chamber is hiding behind a report of the Commission of human rights of the Council of Europe which highlights, “a substantial lessening” of the number of judges sanctioned in the last two years in Russia. It also mentions a “lessening of undue pressure” on them. “The Judges of Aix dishonor their profession by considering that their Russian counterparts are their equals”, said Me. Peter Sahlas, lawyer for Mukhtar Ablyazov. “This produces jitters.  They ignore their responsibilities as defenders of rights. The Russians will seize the opportunity to use this decision at any given opportunity as a clean sheet”

However, in November 2011, this same Chamber of Aix ruled on a Russian extradition request against Vitali Arkhangelski, founder of Oslo Marine Group (OMG), who was being prosecuted in St. Petersburg for alleged financial offences. The judgment then quoted a telling statistic: In the past, the European Court of Human Rights delivered 1,119 judgments concerning Russia, out of which, 1045 concluded at least one violation of the European Convention for the Protection of Human rights and fundamental freedoms.

"There is every reason to have serious doubts as to the fairness of the criminal proceedings against Vitali Arkhangelski, concerning fundamental procedural guarantees from which he should benefit and the effective protection of the rights of the defense", noted the judgment. The text referred to the fate of lawyer, Sergei Magnitsky,from the Hermitage Fund, who died in prison in November 2009 after an inhuman detention. His death does not protect him; proceedings are still engaged against the lawyer.

Source: Le Monde