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Russian nationalist arrested over Ablyazov embezzlement case; Ablyazov hearings commence in France 17 октября 2014, 22:27

Russian police arrests Alexander Potkin, a well-known nationalist, in connection with the BTA Bank embezzlement case worth $5 billion. French court restarts Ablyazov extradition hearings.
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Alexander Potkin  ©Sergey Mikheyev/Kommersant.ru Alexander Potkin ©Sergey Mikheyev/Kommersant.ru

Former leader of the Movement Against Illegal Immigration (DPNI) Alexander Potkin (Belov) has been detained in Moscow in connection with embezzlement of $5 billion from Kazakhstan's BTA Bank that was lead by Mukhtar Ablyazov, a fugitive Kazakh who is now the main defendant in the gigantic fraud case, Tengrinews reports citing Kommersant.ru.

Well-known nationalist Potkin was arrested on October 15 in Intourist Kolomenskoye hotel. A search in his room uncovered a whole array of financial documents, as well as literature the police identified as extremist.

According to the investigators Potkin represented Mukhtar Ablyazov in Moscow. Executing orders for the former head of BTA Bank, the DPNI leader was in charge of managing and legalizing the property siphoned off from the bank, in particular 2.49 thousand hectares of land in Domodedovo near Moscow.

Potkin is accused of being part of the fraudulent scheme to embezzle $730 million from BTA while working for Eurasia Logistics. But the Russian nationalist maintains his innocence.

A source close to the investigation worth $5 billion said that Potkin met the fugitive tycoon Mukhtar Ablyazov in 2011 and was originally hired for a variety of social science research projects in Kazakhstan associated with growth and influence of nationalist forces on the situation in the Central Asian country.

In addition, on behalf of the former banker, Potkin allegedly worked with leaders of the nationalist movements in Kazakhstan, whom Ablyazov “tried to use to fight the local authorities”, Kommersant writes.

Potkin was allegedly involved in purchasing of equipment and the selection of journalists for opposition television channels funded by Mukhtar Ablyazov.

Later, nationalist Potkin started handling not only the media but also other assets belonging to Ablyazov in Russia, especially after the Kazakh billionaire fled from Great Britain when pronounced guilty of contempt to court by the Court of London.

According to investigators, Potkin’s work was supervised by Ablyazov’s closest allies - Ilyas Khrapunov, Ablyazov's son in law and the son of a former Mayor of Almaty Viktor Khrapunov, and Botagoz Dzhardemali, who has long held senior positions in BTA bank.

Fugitive Kazakh banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, 51 is accused of financial fraud worth over $6 billion in his homeland of Kazakhstan.

On July 31, 2013 he was arrested in France and has since been in custody. He requested release on bail on several occasions but was denied every time.

The French court ruled to extradite Ablyazov to Russia or Ukraine earlier this year - the two countries want him for fraud, as well as Kazakhstan, but unlike Kazakhstan they have extradition agreements with France. But shortly after the ruling was handed, the case was return to court by Ablyazov's lawyers over a technical error in the documents, So the French court will have to once again decide whether to extradite Ablyazov and to which country – Russia or Ukraine.

The new hearing in the appeals court in French Leon started today, on October 17. But no extradition decision has been pronounced so far.

The only development at today's court that has grasped a lot of public attention was that Garry Kasparov, a Russian chess legend, wanted to testify against Ablyazov's extradition to Russia but was blocked by the French court.

At yesterday's press-conference Kasparov admitted that he "was not interested" in the details of the case and didn't know much about them and wanted to testify because he was asked to do so by Ablyazov's family and lawyers. Kasparov, being a vocal critic of Russian Valdimir Putin, said that he wanted to testify about the fate that would await Ablyazov should he be extradited to Russia. 

Kasparov has never served a term in Russian or foreign prison or has a criminal record, and has no first hand knowledge of Russian penal system. 

Kasparov has no history of cooperation or lasting friendship with Ablyazov, which raises a lot of questions about the motives behind the surprise decision to testify in support of the Kazakh multibillionaire. 

After some deliberation, the French appeals court Judge Luc Fontaine said he would not "proceed with the hearing of witnesses" because it was not allowed in extradition cases, but did not rule out a possibility that the witness may be heard at a later stage.   

Writing by Dinara Urazova, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina


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