Author Topic: Kazakhstan agrees fugitive family can leave  (Read 1444 times)

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Kazakhstan agrees fugitive family can leave
« on: December 28, 2013, 08:05:22 AM »
Kazakhstan agrees fugitive family can leave

Last updated: December 24, 2013 7:23 pm

By Guy Dinmore in Rome

Kazakhstan has agreed to allow the wife and daughter of a prominent fugitive ex-banker and political activist, Mukhtar Ablyazov, to leave the country temporarily in response to intense pressure from Italy which has admitted it wrongly deported them from Rome last May.

Alma Shalabayeva had called Italy’s foreign minister Emma Bonino to thank her for helping her to gain her freedom of movement, Italy said in a statement on Tuesday. It said that Ms Shalabayeva had gone to the Italian embassy in the capital Astana to obtain a Schengen visa for her and her daughter Alua to return to Europe.

The mother and six-year-old daughter were expected to fly to Europe later this week, the family said in a statement.

Italy deported the pair from Rome last May after they were seized in a raid by police on a Rome villa where Mr Ablyazov was believed to be staying, acting on a false tip-off from the Kazakh authorities. Italy later accused Kazakh diplomats in Rome of exerting improper pressure on Italian interior ministry officials to deport them and asked Kazakhstan to return them after revoking the deportation order.

A UN human rights committee said their deportation had amounted to an “extraordinary rendition” in a case that triggered a political furore in Italy, leading to the resignation of a senior interior ministry official and a sharp deterioration in relations with Kazakhstan, an important trading partner.

Mr Ablyazov, former chairman of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank who is wanted in connection with allegations of fraud, has accused the Kazakh authorities of using his family as political pawns. Mr Ablyazov, who was arrested in France in July, is in prison pending resolution of extradition requests made by Ukraine and Russia related to the BTA Bank affair. The court in Aix-en-Provence is due to hold its next hearing in January.

Immediately after Ms Shalabayeva was detained in Rome, the Kazakh authorities said she was under criminal investigation on suspicion of illegally obtaining a Kazakh passport. The embassy in Rome provided a private plane for her deportation to Kazakhstan where on arrival on June 1 she was confined to her home city of Almaty.

Her family said on Monday that Ms Shalabayeva’s mother had been forced to use the family home as security for bail to allow her to leave the country temporarily, and that she had been issued a new Kazakh passport.

Peter Sahlas, a lawyer representing Ms Shalabayeva’s children, said: “The Kazakhs were holding Ablyazov’s wife and daughter as hostages. The regime finally understood that an ongoing hostage-taking would harm its chances of having Ablyazov extradited from France. This is a temporary and cynical move by the Kazakh regime to increase its chances of getting Ablyazov while keeping a hook on his wife to drag her back or list her on Interpol. “

“The Kazakhs will not hesitate to seek her arrest if she does not return. Their plan is to turn her from a hostage into a fugitive, if need be. Everything depends on what is happening with Ablyazov,” the lawyer added.

Mr Ablyazov, a former energy minister who fell out with Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev and fled the country in 2009, was granted political asylum in the UK and was told by UK police that his safety was in danger. He fled the UK in 2012 after he was sentenced to 22 months in prison for contempt of court related to cases brought by the nationalised BTA bank alleging “massive fraud” in its attempt to recoup $6bn.

Chris Hardman, a lawyer for BTA Bank in the UK, said this month that the English High Court had found Mr Ablyazov to have committed major frauds against the bank and that in the latest ruling in November the court had made a judgment of $300m against him. Mr Ablyazov, who has links to Kazakh opposition activists, denies the allegations and says they are politically motivated.