Posted on Jan 26, 2020
A January 23rd conference at the European Parliament in Brussels, attended by MEPs, academics, and journalists, discussed the influence of so-called “fake NGOs” and the dissemination by them of fake news, and misleading information.
The abuse of the status of “human rights” NGOs was highlighted with several examples, including activities being conducted within the EU institutions themselves on behalf of an organised crime syndicate the tentacles of which reach to the heights of power and with a global reach.
The convicted fraudster and fugitive oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank, believed to have absconded with up to $7.6 billion, was named as the head of the syndicate, and as the moving force behind the shadowy Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF), a so-called human rights NGO which has itself implicated in money laundering activities as recently as last year.
Also named was the Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDU) and its president, Antonio Stango.
Since his crimes were uncovered in 2009, Ablyazov has racked up multiple criminal convictions in Kazakhstan, Great Britain and France, is subject also to extradition warrants issued by Ukraine and Russia, as well as legal actions in the United States. Despite all this, ODF, with the support of FIDU, maintain that Ablyazov and his associates, all implicated in his crimes, and most if not all with outstanding convictions, are in fact innocent, and are being persecuted for their political positions.
In fact, as the conference heard, in many cases their crimes continue.
- Ablyazov’s son-in-law, Ilyas Khrapunov, a Swiss resident, has been named in court papers issued by the United States District Court: Southern District of New York dated as recently as March 25th 2019, as “laundering more than $3 million in Stolen Funds through the Trump SoHo project in New York.”
- In April 2019 the Sunday Times reported that “Evidence compiled by the Moldovan parliament suggests that about £1.5m has been washed through the accounts of businesses registered in Glasgow and Edinburgh and ended up in the bank account of the Warsaw-based non-government organisation Open Dialogue Foundation… The cash was allegedly used to fund lobbying campaigns on behalf of Veaceslav Platon, a Moldovan oligarch jailed last year for his part in a billion-dollar banking fraud, and Mukhtar Ablyazov”.
- Botagaz Jardemalie is widely considered to have been Ablyazov’s “right hand” during the period during which he was carrying out his crimes, and is currently resident in Belgium with refugee status. In 2017 it was reported that the Belgian judiciary was conducting an investigation against her on allegations of laundering some $100 million. In October of last year her home was raided by Belgian and Kazakh security officers, and items were reported to have been removed. Ms. Jardemalie, who is strongly connected with ODF, it is reported, will be represented by Belgian lawyer Christian Marchand, an an advisory board member of the NGO Fair Trials, which receives European Commission funding, who is described on the website of the organisation as having experience of dealing with ‘complex and international cases including money laundering’.
- On January 17th of this year, the Moscow Tagansky District Court had to adjourn a hearing due to the absence of Ablyazov’s representative. Among other defendants in the case are ex-president of BTA Roman Solodchenko along with multiple other former BTA Bank employees, currently residing in Europe. Ablyazov will be tried in-absentia concerning the embezzlement of over 58 billion Russian rubles (around $846mn).
The conference expressed serious concerns that given their involvement with Ablyazov’s criminal activities, ODF are able to lobby on behalf of their clients in the European Parliament and the the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The fact that the organisation, the funding of which has come under serious concern, is able to enjoy access to parliamentarians, at least one of whom, the conference heard, has previously been censured for corrupt activities.
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