BTA Bank said a decision by a French court to deny bail to former Chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov will boost efforts by the Kazakh lender to regain control of $6 billion in assets it says were stolen by former management.
A court in southern France ruled yesterday that the fugitive ex-banker will remain in custody as Ukraine seeks his extradition. Ablyazov, a critic of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been in hiding since last year until his arrest in France July 31. Russia and Ukraine put him on international wanted lists in 2011.
"The fact that he is rightly being held in custody can only assist in the bank's asset recovery efforts, as it should prevent his attempts further to launder the proceeds of his wrongdoing," Pavel Prosyankin, a managing director at Almaty-based BTA, said in a statement e-mailed today.
Ablyazov, who was granted asylum in Britain two years ago, fled the U.K. in February 2012 after being sentenced to 22 months in prison for contempt of court. BTA, which restructured its debt twice since government takeover in 2009, said it won judgments against him for about $4 billion in London's High Court
Prosecutors in Kazakhstan issued an international arrest warrant in March 2009 as they pursued Ablyazov on suspicion of embezzlement. He has denied accusations of theft and money laundering, saying the lawsuits are politically motivated.
In June, Ablyazov's wife, Alma Shalabayeva, and 6-year-old daughter, Alua, were deported from Italy to Kazakhstan. Ablyazov said at the time that his family was living in Italy legally and called the transfer a "kidnapping" and "hostage-taking" ordered by Nazarbayev to force him to return to Kazakhstan.
The Italian government revoked the expulsion after protests from lawmakers and human rights associations over the treatment of what they called the family of a Kazakh dissident. Human Rights Watch has urged France to reject the extradition request and avoid sending Ablyazov to any country that may transfer him to Kazakhstan.
Ablyazov faces "serious risk of ill-treatment and would face a flagrant denial of his fair trial rights," the rights group said in an Aug. 8 statement.
The fugitive was denied bail because of "serious concerns for his safety," according to a statement on Ablyazov's Facebook Inc. page. If released during the legal proceedings, the exiled banker has pledged to stay in France and fight extradition efforts by Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan, according to the statement.
The fugitive will again seek release from custody after the French court has examined the documents provided by Ukraine, according to his defense team. Ukraine has sent documents for Ablyazov's extradition to French police, Ihor Mykhalko, a spokesman for Kiev's police, has said.
"Ablyazov's legal team is more confident than ever that all proof points to the political nature of Ukraine's request," his lawyer, Bruno Rebstock, said in the statement.
-- Editors: Paul Abelsky, Andrew Langley