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French court blocks extradition of Kazakh tycoon Ablyazov

10 april 2014, 13:55
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Mukhtar Ablyazov. ©Tengrinews/Yaroslav Radlovskiy
Mukhtar Ablyazov. ©Tengrinews/Yaroslav Radlovskiy

On Wednesday a French court of appeal blocked the extradition of exiled Kazakh oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, who wanted for embezzlement of around $6 billon in Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine, Tengrinews reports citing AFP newswire.

The Kazakh multibillionair who was arrested on the French Riviera in July is accused of having stolen billions of dollars in state and investor funds while leading BTA Bank, that was based in Kazakhstan and had interests in Ukraine and Russia.

The Cour de Cassation ruled against the previous decision in favour of the extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov made by another French court this January where the judge approved the extradition requests from both Russia and Ukraine but ruled that Russia's should take priority as the sum allegedly embezzled was far greater than that alleged by Ukrainian authorities.

Ablyazov's lawyers appealed the decision, and since the top court did not support the ruling of the lower court, the extradition request will now be considered again by a lower court in the eastern city of Lyon. The motive for blocking the extradition was not revealed by the court. Ablyazov's lawyer Jean-Pierre Mignard said he was hopeful that his client would not face the extradition.

Ablyazov was first jailed in Kazakhstan in 2002 for abuse of power and illegal business activities. After the charges were presented he immediately declared himself and opposition leader and started saying the his political views were the real cause of the charges. 

Mukhtar Ablyazov was pardoned and released less then a year after he was sentenced to a prison term, however, and returned to working and making a fortune in Kazakhstan. He worked in finance and was content with the regime until accusations of embezzlement charges were presented to him and he fled to Britain in 2009, reserving to his old scheme and declaring himself a political fugitive, again.

He is then thought to have moved to Italy before taking up residence in the south of France.

When they arrested him last summer, French police were so worried he would try to flee they deployed a squad of 15 officers backed up by a helicopter to arrest him at the villa he was renting in Mouans-Sartoux, just outside Cannes.

Ablyazov was first jailed in Kazakhstan in 2002 for abuse of power and illegal business activities. He was quickly pardoned and released, however, and worked in finance until fleeing to Britain in 2009 amid accusations of embezzlement.

He is believed to have stayed there until he was sentenced to 22 months in jail for contempt of court by the London’s High Court.

He did not surrender to the British authorities and is then thought to have moved to Italy before his arrest in the south of France.

The oligarch was arrested in July by 15 police officers in a dramatic raid on the six-bedroom villa he was renting in Mouans-Sartoux on a warrant issued by Ukraine, as a helicopter hovered in case he tried to escape.

Ablyazov filed motions requesting his release on bail twice, while being in custody in France. But the court rejected both motions, because no sufficient guarantees were provided and the court believed that the former head of BTA Bank would flee as soon as he was out of prison.


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