The Kazakh oligarch’s Italian story: how to spit upon a family for the sake of ambitions

In May, the Polish based so-called Human Rights NGO Open Dialog Foundation (ODF), in association with the Italian Federation for Human Rights (FIDU), held a press conference in the Brussels Press Club.

At this event, the President of the FIDU, Antonio Stango, and the Polish MP, Marcin Swiecicki,together presented a report, in which it was claimed that the Kazakh businessman Iskander Yerimbetov was “tortured” whilst in detention.

Polish and Italian politicians recently visited Kazakhstan as part of a high level fact finding mission to establish how well this Central Asian country is “fulfilling its obligations pursuant to international human rights treaties”.

However in reality this mission appeared to be focused on protecting the above mentioned Iskander Yerimbetov, who is currently under investigation on suspicion of money laundering on behalf of the notorious fugitive oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov.

Mr Ablyazov, the former BTA Bank chair, fled his homeland after a ‘black-hole’ now believed to be around $7.6 billion was found in the accounts of the bank.

The Kazakh oligarch is alleged to be behind the funding of the Open Dialog Foundation, which is currently led by a Ukrainian national, Lyudmyla Kozlovskaya, and lobbies tirelessly on behalf of Ablyazov’s interests in Brussels.

According to an investigation by Polish journalists, ODF and its sponsors are currently suspected of having connections with Moscow, including with entities connected with the Russian Navy.

The strange activities of this controversial NGO have not been overlooked in Brussels. Polish MEP, Kosma Zlotowski, has expressed concerns regarding the connection between ODF and the Russian Federation.

“Although the ODF officially supports democracy and human rights, Lyudmyla Kozlovskaya was granted a Russian passport in 2014, i.e. after the annexation of Crimea,” he wrote in a letter to the EU Commission.

The law maker emphasised that, given that “the European Parliament is a place where lots of sensitive information is available and where European law is made”, such connections should raise “certain concerns”.

Of course, all questions concerning human rights issues must be prioritised.

However, the credibility of the new report, presented by Stango and Swiecicki, alleging torture in Kazakhstan, has come under critical scrutiny.

Mukhtar Ablyazov appears to be the only client of Antonio Stango: a relationship that has previously been rumoured to have increased the latter’s personal wealth rather significantly.

During the press conference, Antonio Stango failed to mention a delightful story, which occurred in Italy just 5 years ago, and in which he played a leading role.

In May 2013, Italian police broke into a house in a Rome suburb in the hope of arresting Mukhtar Ablyazov, who had been placed on the international wanted list by several counties for an array of financial crimes.

However, shortly before Italy’s Carabinieri visited his upmarket mansion near Rome, Mukhtar Ablyazov was warned by the ex-high-ranking official of Kazakh secret service. He immediately fled villa, where were members of his family, for the comfort and safety of the Azure coast, in France, with a glamorous female friend Olena Tischenko.

He deliberately left his daughter and wife Alma Shalabayeva, who had been using a diplomatic passport issued by the Central African Republic in the name of Ayan Alma. They were arrested and deported to Kazakhstan for illegally staying in the territory of Italy under fake passports.

How this fugitive oligarch could obtain diplomatic passports for his family from one of the poorest countries in the world can only be speculated upon.

In March 2013, Séléka, a coalition of rebel groups of Central African Republic, seized the capital and the President François Bozize, who subsequently fled the country.

After this affair, Ablyazov accused the Kazakh authorities of “kidnapping” his family. The leadership of Italian populist Radical Party, which includes the above mentioned Antonio Stango, decided to provoke a scandal over this case in pursuit of their political goals.

The investigation continues in Italy to this day with Italian police and judges being accused of “illegal deportation”. Each party has always claimed the correctness of its behaviour.

Nurtai Dutbayev, ex-head of Kazakh secret service, who now languishes in prison for divulging state secrets and exceeding his official authority, claimed in a television documentary that he had supported Ablyazov and interfered in the investigation of the killing of the ex-head of BTA Bank in 2004.

Ablyazov’s predecessor as CEO of BTA Bank, Yerzhan Tatishev, was killed with a shot to the head in 2004 in what was reported at the time as a “hunting accident”. Just weeks after the death of his predecessor, Ablyazov took control of the bank.

The man responsible for his death, Muratkhan Tokmadi, was to initially receive a short jail sentence for causing “death through negligence”.

However, following technical investigations into the weapon involved, carried out by experts from the United States, and also witness testimonies, Tokmadi made a confession in which he described how this was no mere accident, but was effectively a contract killing ordered by Ablyazov.

General Nurtai Dutbayev, formerly an officer of the Soviet KGB, assisted in the organisation of Tatishev's assassination.

“There was enmity between Tatishev and Ablyazov. Then Ablyazov asked me to collect information regarding Tatishev, which would help him to gain control of the bank's assets. I agreed,” the ex- head of secret service said in a KTK TV documentary.

After that, by Dutbaev's order, Tatishev's wife was pressured and ultimately she transferred the bank's assets to Ablyazov.

In France, the fugitive oligarch, with the support of corrupted human rights activists, peddled the tale of how the Kazakh authorities “kidnapped” his family, using this deception, and exploiting them in order to create the image of a political dissident, avoid criminal prosecution, and to stay in the European Union.

How long Ablyazov, who surely deserves a leading role in a novel by Ian Fleming will evade justice is known only to the authorities of France, where he lives in luxury to this day.

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Phillipe Jeune

Phillipe Jeune

Phillipe Jeune is a Paris-based freelance journalist, and an occasional contributor to EU Today. He has a background in intelligence gathering, and he specialises in business matters, with a particular interest in Central Asia and the Middle East.

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