Former secret service deputy head says publication of house address searched by Maltese police endangers his family
Kazakh exile Rakhat Aliyev – currently being held in an Austrian prison after turning himself him in for questioning on suspicion of murder – has written a letter of protest to MaltaToday for publicising his Maltese address.
In the letter, signed by lawyer Erich Gemeiner, Aliyev claims that the publication of his Madliena address, searched by Maltese police on court order to freeze his assets in Malta, was "wantonly negligent".
"It could endanger my family as the Kazakh regime [have been] searching for us for years. It has always been my biggest concern to keep the whereabouts of my family a secret and this article is a huge setback to all my efforts of keeping my family safe," Aliyev, a former deputy head of the Kazakh secret service, said.
In October, Maltese police conducted an inventory of his belongings found in the villa in Madliena where Aliyev and his wife Elnara Shorazova were living. Aliyev's lawyer, Joe Giglio has protested the fact that the court hearing ordering the police search was conducted behind closed doors, a procedure normally employed during sensitive criminal trials, at the request of the Attorney General.
The Madliena mansion had once been the property of the Nationalist Party's head of finance commission, Ray Bugeja, who sold the villa 'L'Etoile' for €3,492,000 to Ganado Trustees & Fiduciaries in November 2011. Up until February 2014, Ganado Trustees & Fiduciaries had a legal relationship with Aliyev, having acted as a nominee shareholder for an Aliyev company, Olympia Yachting.
Olympia Yachting is one of several companies owned by the Aliyevs that were the subject of an asset freeze requested by the Attorney General earlier this year.
In his letter to MaltaToday, Aliyev said that the house search was highly questionable owing to the fact that Maltese police were acting on an assistance request by the Kazakh justice authorities.
"They have trailed me for years and I am forced to defend myself against truthless [sic] accusations all too often. Even worse, especially because it is widely known that Kazakh authorities hunt my family and me, you also publish my villa's address, which could really endanger my family members."
Aliyev has filed a constitutional application calling on the Court to declare that the asset freeze is against his right to a fair trial, and to lift the embargo on his wealth. The freezing order also affects his Austrian-naturalised wife Elnara Shorazova, prohibiting the couple from transferring any movable or immovable property.
The Attorney General says the request for assistance by the Kazakh justice authorities comes under the United Nations Convention Against Transnational Organized Crime, and that Malta is bound to collect such evidence as requested and hand it to the Kazakh government.
"I hope you follow the code of honour of independent journalism... to do everything in your power to stop the mentioned accusations and eliminate the mentioned grievances," Aliyev said in his letter. "I urgently ask you not to publish any information that could lead anyone to the whereabouts of my family as we are traced by the Kazakh regime and KNB [secret service]."
By a court order that was made public by the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, the assets of various companies belonging to Aliyev and registered at his Pendergardens address were frozen in 2014. Among the companies whose assets have been frozen are Olympic Yachting, AJ Trust, Sydney Trust, Athina Trust, Acquarius Trust, Aurelius Holdings of Gibraltar, EDS Holdings and Crimson Limited.
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 in 2008, Austria refused to extradite him and instead started investigating the case itself, releasing Aliyev on a €1 million bail in 2011.
He then used his right to free movement through his marriage to a naturalised Austrian citizen, setting up base in Malta. In April 2013 his Austrian passport was repealed following an inquiry by an Austrian ombudsman that found maladministration in its issuance. He recently applied for Cypriot naturalisation.
Aliyev, an opponent of Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev and his former son-in-law, flew to Vienna voluntarily earlier in June for questioning by Austrian investigators. He is wanted in Kazakhstan over the murder of two bankers, kidnapped in 2007 and later found dead – he denies the charges.
He was formerly married to Dariga Nazarbayeva, eldest daughter of Mr Nazarbayev, an authoritarian ruler who has cracked down hard on any dissent.