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French court urged to extradite Kazakhstan tycoon Ablyazov

13 december 2013, 12:29
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Illustration of Tengrinews.kz
Illustration of Tengrinews.kz
Prosecutors on Thursday urged a French court to grant requests from Russia and Ukraine for the extradition of exiled Kazakh oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov wanted on embezzlement charges, AFP reports.

"I am asking you to give a positive answer to Ukraine's extradition request," prosecuting attorney Solange Legras told the court in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence.

She also urged the court in the southern city of Aix-en-Provence to reject Ablyazov's claim that he was facing political persecution.

"He has not indicated that he is a Russian politician. In reality he claims to be an opposition politician in Kazakhstan but, from what I know, it is not Kazakhstan that is demanding him but Russia," Legras said.

She had earlier urged the court to grant a similar request from Ukraine for his extradition, insisting that Ablyazov would not be re-extradited to Kazakhstan.

A decision is expected in several weeks.

One of Ukraine's lawyers at the court, Guy Bigot, described Ablyazov as an "expert at fleeing" and said "all his rights" would be guaranteed in Ukraine.

The former Kazakh energy and trade minister is accused of having stolen billions of dollars in state and investor funds while leading the Kazakh BTA Bank, which also had interests in Ukraine and Russia.

From behind a glass box in the court, Ablyazov, 50, said he was "absolutely convinced" he was being prosecuted "for political reasons".

He said the accusations against him were false. "Everything was fabricated by Kazakhstan," Ablyazov said.

Legras said there was no chance he would be re-extradited to Kazakhstan if sent to Russia or Ukraine because such a move would violate international agreements.

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.

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