Millions of pounds extorted by a former Kazakh police chief via “old school post-Soviet raids involving murder” were used to buy three London homes, a court was told yesterday.
The properties, worth more than £80 million, were purchased with money from the late Rakhat Aliyev, a former senior official in the Kazakhstan government accused of killing two bankers, it was claimed.
The homes are the subject of a battle at the High Court after the National Crime Agency (NCA) used unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) to put a freeze on them being sold.
UWOs – named “McMafia” laws after the BBC's crime drama and the book that inspired it - enable the crime agency to seize assets if they believe that the owner is a "politically exposed person" and they are unable to explain the source of their wealth.
Jonathan Hall, QC, representing the NCA, told the High Court that Rakhat Aliyev was a "crook” and that as deputy head of Kazakhstan's secret police, the KNB, he had "carried out some old-school post Soviet raids and extortions involving murder and the like”.
One of the homes, a high-security mansion with an underground pool and cinema in Bishop's Avenue – known as “Billionaire's Row” – in Hampstead, north London, is the residence of Nurali Aliyev, the grandson of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the former Kazakh president.
Rakhat Aliyev was Nurali Aliyev's father. He died in an Austrian prison in 2015 awaiting trial on two charges of murder for the two bankers.
Lawyers representing companies that own the three properties, including an apartment in Chelsea said to be worth £31 million, and another mansion near Highgate golf club in north London, have asked the court to discharge the UWOs, arguing that they were bought legitimately.
However, Mr Hall told the High Court that the evidence showed that “Rakhat Aliyev was a major acquisitive criminal and that his power, his menace, allowed him to extort huge sums of money from Kazakhstan and, indeed, the funds for [the properties) came from him”.
Mr Hall submitted that there were “reasonable grounds to suspect that Rakhat Aliyev was involved in serious crime, including bribery, corruption, blackmail, fraud, forgery and money laundering”.
Clare Montgomery, QC, representing two companies that own the apartment in Chelsea and the property near Highgate golf club, told the court that the properties were “not associated with Rakhat Aliyev at all, but with his wife, Dariga Nazarbayeva, who has had an entirely independent life as an economically active woman".
Mr Hall submitted that “there is no reason to believe [Rakhat Aliyev] was a legitimate businessman”, nor was there any reason to believe Dr Nazarbayeva “was or is” a legitimate businesswoman.
He added: “It is not simply that the assets in question emanated from a deeply corrupt individual, but also emanated from a deeply corrupt regime.”
Mr Hall concluded: “Rakhat Aliyev is dead, but his criminal wealth lives on."
In a written submission, the NCA revealed that it had delved into a tell-all memoir by Rakhat Aliyev to help to build its case. In the book,
The Godfather-in-Law, he described acquiring and developing businesses with Dr Nazarbayeva, the owner of the other two properties seized by the NCA. The couple divorced in 2007.
Dr Nazarbayeva, chairwoman of the senate in Kazakhstan and daughter of the former president, claims to be independently wealthy in part through ventures in the sugar industry, but the book claimed: “The sugar industry certainly doesn't generate enough profit to earn us a place in the Forbes list.”
Mrs Justice Lang reserved judgment.
Original source: THE TIMES