Elnara Shorazova has a weakness for health spas, expensive treatments and luxurious restaurants. She sometimes manages to spend in a couple of days, between Vienna and Krumpendorf am Wörthersee, an amount that an average earner would be happy to earn in a month.
The justice authorities in numerous countries have had their sights set on Ms. Shorazova and her bank account in Cyprus for some time now. The fortune that the 36-year-old is spending is subject to claims by both the Kazakh government and the alleged victims of her late husband.
The injured parties say the money is stolen – victims such as Serik Medetbekov, currently speaker for the opposition in exile. Shorazova, an Austrian citizen of Kazakh origins, was married to the former Kazakh ambassador in Vienna, Rakhat Aliyev. Aliyev was a prominent figure in Austria for many years, first as a diplomat and later as a victim of political persecution and a fugitive from justice.
In February 2015, a few days before a criminal case against him on account of torture was due to begin, he was found hanged in his high-security prison cell. Suicide, said the forensic doctor. Murder, claims his wife, who says the Kazakh secret service was responsible.
In case you've forgotten, Aliyev's first wife was Dariga Nazarbayeva, the daughter of the long-serving Kazakh potentate Nursultan Nazarbayev. As a protégé of the regime, chief of the secret service and head of the tax police, Aliyev was able to build an empire comprising various businesses, particularly in the media and the sugar industry. He also owned a majority share in Nurbank, which was listed on the stock exchange in Almaty.
"As a protégé of the regime, chief of the secret service and head of the tax police, Aliyev was able to build up a empire comprising various businesses."
When in 2007 he was suspected of having killed two of Nurbank's managers, Aliyev fled to Austria, where he was appointed ambassador by his father-in-law, the head of the Kazakh state, in order to give him diplomatic immunity. His methods, if the opposition is to be believed, were both cynical and ruthless. Serik Medetbekov owned a flourishing TV and radio company when, in the late 1990s, Aliyev approached him and demanded that he transfer the business to him.
Under threat of violence
Aliyev backed up his demand with the threat of physical violence, says Medetbekov, who now lives in Dresden. Initially Medetbekov ignored the threats. When it was brought to his attention that Aliyev, the head of the secret service, was planning to bring criminal charges against him, he fled. Criminal prosecution was a favourite method for getting rid of unwanted people even back in the Soviet Union.
Another victim, Rafik Sotkimbayev from the Federation of Kazakh Industry, died in a mysterious car accident in 2014 on a main road in the Kazakh capital Almaty, just a few days before he planned to publicise Aliyev's business methods at a press conference in Vienna and have his assets frozen. At the time, Aliyev was living with his second wife, Ms. Shorazova, in Malta.
Aliyev owned no fewer than 207 companies spread across the world, according to what his widow told the court in Malta. A network of businesses that served no other purpose than money-laundering, suspect his opponents. The Viennese lawyer Gabriel Lansky, who represents the widows of the murdered Nurbank managers, has suggested that this "money-laundering machine" shifted EUR 100 million. In 2005, for example, Aliyev acquired the bankrupt metalworking company Bender near Krefeld, via a Kazakh front man, having it declare insolvency again a few years later. In the mean time, money was laundered via Bender disguised as loans. Shorazova claims that the business empire belonging to her husband, who died without leaving a will, has been seized by the Kazakh regime: "I don't know what he owned and I don't care." In any case they had no joint assets, she claims.
That fact is disputed by Medetbekov and a serious of other aggrieved parties, who have been trying for years to get at least part of their stolen property back. It was in this way that Medetbekov became aware of Shorazova's luxurious lifestyle. It angers him that Shorazova, Medetbekov is convinced, is squandering his money and not even paying taxes on it.
Nursultan Nazarbayev prides himself on keeping company with advisors such as former [Austrian] Chancellor Gusenbauer. Nazarbayev is thought to have a fortune of USD 7 billion.
Austria is involved in multiple ways. Former Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer advises the Kazakh regime on foreign policy and Minister of Justice Wolfgang Brandstetter acted as Aliyev's lawyer. Brandstetter also provided him with a mailing address in the Waldviertel [region of Austria] and is said to have taken a million dollars in cash out of a safe and brought it to Malta, where Aliyev, a wanted man, was then living. Aliyev's estate in Austria is managed by the lawyer Johannes Jaksch. The idea that Rakhat Aliyev was bankrupt before his death, as is claimed by the judicial authorities, is "completely unrealistic and appears to us to be a mockery," wrote Medetbekov on October 11. "For years we have had to watch Rakhat Aliyev putting his luxurious lifestyle on show, squandering the money he stole on yachts, cars and villas on the Mediterranean while pretending to be a member of the opposition."
The speaker of the opposition said he would be happy "to provide detailed information on the true assets of Rakhat Aliyev that will enable you to meet the demands of all the creditors and victims of Rakhat Aliyev." Jaksch turned this offer down. Next, Medetbekov turned to Yiangos Demetriou of the Cypriot National Bank. In a letter of November 2, 2016, he demanded that the bank freeze the accounts of Ms. Shorazova: "Aliyev invested this money stemming from crimes committed in Kazakhstan in shares in the French sugar company Sucres & Denrées (Sucden)." Aliyev sold the shares, worth slightly more than EUR 8 million in 2005, for more than three times as much in 2013 to Camac Investissements in Luxembourg.
When Aliyev deposited this money with the Ammochostou Co-operative Saving Society Ltd, criminal investigations against him were already underway in Lichtenstein, Malta, Greece and Germany. Austria and Lichtenstein have already frozen accounts. Nevertheless, his widow evidently managed to save at least part of the assets. She founded the company Zirtovia in the British Virgin Islands, with its headquarters in Cyprus, which is not known to have performed any commercial activity.
She then transferred her husband's money from an account at the Ammochostou Bank in Cyprus to the account of Zirtovia, held at the same bank. Shorazova's own network of businesses is also considerable. A graduate in business from the WU [Vienna University of Economics and Business], she is an authorised signatory for, among others, Camco Holdings, headquartered in Panama, and Zurich Asset Management, a brass-plate firm in the Caribbean island of St. Kitts and Nevis. To the court in Malta she admitted only to Maxi[u]mus GmbH in Vienna, which has an ownership interest in Marx Media in Vienna, Landstrasse. The latter firm was also partly owned by her husband Rakhat Aliyev, aka Mr. Shorazov.
According to bank statements in the possession of the editors of this publication, Shorazova spent almost EUR 42,000 from the Zirtovia account on toys, cosmetics, spas and good restaurants in the course of last May alone.
"Austria's former Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer advises the Kazakh regime on foreign policy and Minister of Justice Wolfgang Brandstetter acted as Aliyev's lawyer."
Medetbekov and his group have appealed to the Cypriot Unit for Combating Money Laundering (MOKAS) to freeze all of Aliyev's and his wife's assets in Cyprus. At the same time, the Kazakh government took similar steps. Nazarbayev and his clan are laying claim to accounts and property in Nicosia worth at total of EUR 2.3 million. In late November, the Cypriot justice authorities took action and ordered the freezing of Shorazova's assets (EUR 33 million, plus property worth EUR 2.3 million).
"A violent tug-of-war has erupted over the late Rakhat Aliyev's millions in assets."