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UK revokes Ablyazov's refugee status

Mukhtar Ablyazov. © Tengrinews/Yaroslav Radlovskiy Mukhtar Ablyazov. © Tengrinews/Yaroslav Radlovskiy

Great Britain has announced its decision to terminate the refugee status of a former Kazakhstan banker and minister accused of fraud and money laundering, Tengrinews reports citing the Financial Times.

Accused of embezzling $6 billion from BTA he used to lead, Mukhtar Ablyazov was granted the refugee status in 2011, however in January this year he received a notification from the UK Home Office about its intention to cancel it.

Ablyazov’s legal team strongly condemned the move as being in violation of the international laws protecting refugees. “After properly granting refugee status to Mr Ablyazov in 2011, the United Kingdom now seems to have fallen victim to an insidious misinformation campaign. The decision taken is not only unlawful and ungrounded, but the Home Office is not revealing the truth about it," Ablyazov’s lawyer Peter Sahlas told the Financial Times.

Ablyazov’s lawyers allege the existence of covert communications between the UK and Kazakhstan on the issue. They also claim that there are documents which prove that UK Prime Minister David Cameron wished to erase this issue as it was an obstacle to better relationships with Kazakhstan.

In the meanwhile Ablyazov and his team choose not to mention the real reason why his relationships with the UK went sour and the country that once welcomed him turn its back.

Ablyazov is a wanted person in Britain. After he repeatedly demonstrated contempt of court during hearings of his BTA bank fraud case in the London's High Court, the British court sentenced him to 22 months in prison. The Kazakh tycoon responded to the demands of the British justice by fleeing the country. All this took place in February 2012, less then a year after the thought-after status was granted to him. 

Trying to cover up the attitude Ablyazov made a statement from French prison saying: "I have the deepest respect, Mr Cameron and Ms May, for what your country and your institutions stand for..." 

The UK is known for its firm position in regards to granting refugee status to people who need protection, but never to people trying to manipulate the status or scorning the country's laws. 

Ablyazov is now in prison in France in the midst of a legal battle against extradition to Russia and Ukraine, which was decided upon by the French court in January, but is now being sent to a court in Lyon on Ablyazov's successful appeal. The extradition was cancelled due to an organizational mistake – Ablyazov’s signature was absent in the protocols.

The tycoon was found in French Riviera only more than a year after he fled British justice. He was known to keep "a private militia", so the French forces had to arrange a large scale operation involving undercover penetration and a helicopter to arrest Ablyzov in his luxury villa in Cannes.

As opposed to Ablyazov, the majority of Kazakhstani population can see the French Riviera only on TV. According to Abdujalil Abdurasulov, Almaty based BBC news analyst, the general public in Kazakhstan is mostly indifferent to this case. He says that since there is an overall mistrust towards the rich in the country, the common view of Ablyazov is that he was a thief.

Ablyazov is being portrayed by the Kazakhstani media as a tycoon who stole billions from Kazakhstan. In fact, he was even convicted once before in Kazakhstan for illegal financial deals more than a decade ago. He was offered a pardon then – an offer he accepted. Thereafter, he quickly rose to the highest circles and held high ranking positions in the country, including the post of the Chairman of the Board of Directors of BTA Bank from 2005 to 2009.

Living in Kazakhstan, the country that was ranked 67th (out of 184) in the Global Finance rating of richest countries, Mukhtar Ablyazov who did not inherit any fortune from his Soviet parents became one of the richest men in the world.

Writing by Dinara Urazova, editing by Tatyana Kuzmina

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