Kazakhastan: What Ablyazov’s Trustees say about his Corruption Scheme

A former Kazakh banker Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov. Photograph: Informburo.kz.

(By Dr Shahid Qureshi – Astana, Kazakhstan) :-

In Kazakhstan, trials are held over the former top manager of BTA Bank Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov. He is suspected of embezzlement from the bank as part of a criminal group led by Mukhtar Ablyazov. The total damage to the bank exceeds $12 billion USD.

Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov is an interesting figure. Over the years, he was an associate and deputy of runaway banker Mukhtar Ablyazov. After Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine (where BTA Bank branches were opened), the investigating authorities opened criminal cases on fraud charges, Zharimbetov fled from Kazakhstan. He did this shortly after Kazakhstan, the chief banker, Ablyazov, had left in an urgent order.

Earlier this year, Zharimbetov was detained by Turkish border guards with a fake passport. Zharimbetov did not deny it. He turned to the Consulate General of Kazakhstan in Turkey for «help with guilt». Since Zharimbetov was on the list of wanted Interpol, and, in fact, himself surrendered to the authorities of his country, Istanbul did not put obstacles to his deportation to his homeland.

Already being in Astana Zharimbetov said that he was «tired of running». Almost all the 8 years that he was wanted, he lived in the UK, where he received refugee status. And all these years he was pursued by the British court on claims of BTA Bank. On August 13, 2009, the High Court of London decided to freeze all assets owned by Mukhtar Ablyazov, former chairman of the board of Roman Solodchenko and his first deputy Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov.

Returning to Kazakhstan Zharimbetov did not deny the accusations brought against him. He acknowledged the fact of fraud. Moreover, he spoke in detail about the schemes of stealing money from the bank.

Former deputy Ablyazov also said that under the ex-banker, one of the most successful banks in the post-Soviet space turned into a place for pumping money from Western creditors to finance projects of their own controlled companies. Moreover, according to Zharimbetov, who was in charge of the credit committee of BTA Bank – the body that determines the credit policy of the bank – large loans were deliberately non-refundable loans.

Further part of the money was laundered abroad through offshore (over 600 were opened), including through the British company Eastbridge Capital Limited». The other part was transformed into tangible assets through controlled companies. So, the tower «Eurasia» in Moscow, banks in Russia and Ukraine were bought. In Russia, there are Slavinvest bank (before 2002, the International Bank Astana), Ukraine – Ukrainian Credit and Commercial Bank», there were some other assets such as «Krasnoyarsk Kraiugol or Vitino port. But most of Ablyazov’s projects, such as IPG «Eurasia» or BTA-Moscow also received huge loans, which were issued in the form of non-performing loans, and all were taken to the same offshores.

In almost all offshore companies, the ultimate beneficiaries were Ablyazov’s trustees, including relatives.

Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov said that Ablyazov drew Ilyas Khrapunov, his son-in-law, to cover the assets of his son, to whom he transferred part of the funds. And brother-in-law Syrym Shalabaev.

Zharimbetov’s story only confirmed the findings of the investigation. It was lasting for long 8 years by law enforcement agencies of several countries, with active connection including FATF.

It’s interesting that Mukhtar Ablyazov not only does not recognize the truthfulness of his former deputy’s words, but tries to present his detention almost as «a special operation of Kazakhstan on the territory of another’s state». Ostensibly, the secret services of Astana illegally stole Zharimbetov and all the testimony was beaten out under torture.

And this despite the fact that Zharimbetov himself not only confirmed that he surrendered to the authorities voluntarily. But even a couple of weeks after the deportation to his homeland was released under a written undertaking not to leave the court. That is, almost two months before the start of the trial was at large. «I’m not going anywhere to run away, I’m tired of running around, why should I be an outcast somewhere in a foreign country, I’ll be here», Zharimbetov said at a meeting with journalists shortly after his return.

He added that attempts to politicize this case are artificial. «I know that some people like Mukhtar Ablyazov and non-governmental organizations like «the Open Dialogue» are trying to politicize this situation, but it seems to me that there is no politics here, and they do it for some reason. It hasn’t a relationship to me», he said.

And, by the way, Zharimbetov said that it was Ablyazov who organized the export of his accomplices from the territory of the republic. And subsequently sponsored their stay abroad. According to Zharimbetov, every month, they received 10 thousand dollars for housing: «The decision to pay such a payment to all «refugees» was taken by Mr. Ablyazov at the insistence of Mr. Ketebaev Muratbek (the closest confidant of Ablyazov), who was charged with «refugees». He called the fugitives «monkeys with grenades».

Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov partially acknowledged his guilt. «I carried out Ablyazov’s instructions, he deceived me, despite this, I admit my guilt».

Recall that an organized criminal group, led by the former head of BTA Bank Mukhtar Ablyazov and former first deputy chairman of the board of BTA Bank Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov, committed embezzlement from BTA Bank. The total damage to the Kazakh bank is about 7.5 billion USD. The total amount of damage inflicted by Ablyazov’s criminal group in all countries (Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Great Britain) exceeds 12 billion USD.

Mukhtar Ablyazov currently resides in France. The State Council of France refused to deport him to the Russian Federation, believing that the runaway oligarch is a political immigrant. Although no policy in this matter, the courts of many countries, including European ones, have not been found. And they recognized Ablyazov and his accomplices as thieves on an especially large scale.