The Constitutional Court will today hear submissions regarding a freezing order issued against locally-held assets belonging to the former deputy chief of the Kazakh secret service, Rakhat Aliyev.
Aliyev is currently being held under arrest in Austria, where the Vienna prosecutor is investigating his role in an alleged double murder of two Kazakh bankers.
But on Wednesday, Maltese police conducted an inventory of his belongings found in the villa in Madliena where Aliyev and his wife Elnara Shorazova, were living.
In comments to MaltaToday, Aliyev's lawyer Joe Giglio insisted that his client was "neither present nor represented at the hearing [that ordered the search of Aliyev's house] and consequently there could be no cross-examination of witnesses."
Giglio protested that the court hearing ordering the police search in Aliyev's house was conducted behind closed doors, a procedure normally employed during sensitive criminal trials, at the request of the Attorney General.
Asked who took the decision to hold the hearing this way, Giglio replied, "I cannot answer this question precisely because the hearing was held behind closed doors and I wasn't present". The reknowned lawyer said the use of this type of hearing was unprecedented in similar cases in Malta.
By court order, the assets of various companies belonging to Aliyev and registered at his Pendergardens address were frozen. Amongst the companies whose assets have been frozen are Olympic Yachting Limited, AJ Trust, Sydney Trust, Athina Trust of Malta, Acquarius Trust Company Limited, Aurelius Holdings Limited of Gibraltar, EDS Holdings Ltd and Crimson Limited.
Aliyev has filed a constitutional application calling on the Court to declare that the asset freeze – carried out at the request of the Kazakh government – was against his right to a fair trial, and to lift the embargo on his wealth.
The freezing order also affected the wealth of his Austrian-naturalised wife Elnara Shorazova, prohibiting the couple from transferring any movable or immovable property.
The Attorney General's office has declared that it has acted on a request for assistance by the Kazakh justice authorities under the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, and that Malta was bound to collect such evidence as requested and hand it to the Kazakh government – as it did last April.
Aliyev, who as major-general was the former deputy director of the Kazakh National Security Committee, was sentenced twice in absentia to 20-year prison terms for corruption, kidnapping, organized criminal activity and abuse of office in Kazakhstan.
Stripped of his diplomatic immunity while in Austria, the EU country refused to extradite him and instead started investigating the case itself, releasing Aliyev on a €1 million bail.
Aliyev obtained free movement across the EU through his marriage to a naturalised Austrian citizen, Elnara Shorazova, and then lived in Malta under the assumed surname of Shoraz. In April 2013 his Austrian passport was repealed following an inquiry by an Austrian ombudsman that found maladministration in its issuance. In May, Aliyev voluntarily turned himself in to the Vienna police after his associates were arrested in the country.