French court authorises extradition of Kazakh tycoon Ablyazov25 october 2014, 11:10
A French court on Friday authorised the extradition of exiled Kazakh oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov to Russia and Ukraine, despite concerns over his safety if the move goes ahead, AFP reports.
Ablyazov, a former minister turned opposition figure and banker turned fugitive, is wanted by Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan on embezzlement charges which he says were politically motivated and the rest of the world calls a result of his massive fraud.
After months on the run he was arrested on the French Riviera in July last year and France has since been grappling with the vast and tangled case of what to do with the 51-year-old.
The court in the southeast city of Lyon said priority would be given to Russia for the extradition. The scale of the embezzlement alleged by Moscow of $5 billion (four billion euros) is far greater than that alleged by Ukraine of $400 million.
Extradition to Kazakhstan that wants Ablyazov on charged of embezzling $6 billion was not considered by the French court because Kazakhstan has not extradition agreement with France.
This court ruling is not the end of the journey for Ablyazov, who can still take the case to France's final appeals court -- the Cour de Cassation -- the State Council, which is the country's top administrative court, and the European Court of Human Rights.
A French court had already ruled in favour of his extradition in January, but this decision was subsequently overturned by an appeals court in April and the case was re-examined.
Ablyazov was once a member of the inner circle of the Kazakhstan elite and served as energy and trade minister before his fall from grace.
He was jailed in 2002 for abuse of power and illegal business activities. But was quickly pardoned and released, however, and became chief executive of the BTA bank, which was nationalised in 2009 after facing collapse when the global financial crisis struck.
Soon after, Ablyazov fled to Britain over accusations he had stolen billions of dollars in state and investors' funds from the bank, which also had interests in Ukraine and Russia.
Even though he was at first granted an Asylum by the European country, he did not have an easy time in London. As BTA filed numerous civil claims against him he found his passport seized and assets frozen.
Ablyazov fled London sometime in 2012 after he was sentenced to 22 months in jail by for contempt of court for trying to hide assets from the London Court.
The fugitive banker is then thought to have moved to Italy before private detectives tracked him to a villa in the south of France and pointed French police to the location.