LONDON – A UK judge has issued an arrest warrant for Mukhtar Ablyazov, the Kazakh billionaire and former chairman of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank who is accused of committing one of the world’s biggest ever frauds.
Ablyazov, who allegedly siphoned off more than $5 billion through a network of his own companies whilst BTA chairman, was found guilty by the High Court’s Justice Nigel Teare of lying about the size of his vast fortune, The Guardian reported.
Teare sentenced Ablyazov to 22 months in prison for “serious” and “brazen” contempt of court over his attempts to conceal more than $50 million of assets from creditors, and issued a warrant for his immediate arrest after he failed to present himself at the High Court on Thursday.
BTA, which had to be rescued by the state in 2009, has brought nine civil lawsuits against Ablyazov, accusing him of “widespread misappropriation of the bank’s funds,” according to The Financial Times.
Ablyazov denies the accusations, contending they are politically motivated and an attempt by Kazakhstan’s long-term President Nursultan Nazarbayev to sideline him as a political opponent. He was granted asylum by the British Government after fleeing to the UK.
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BTA’s lawyers say they fear Ablyazov may have already left the country, though his defence team said he was indisposed with illness and is not in possession of his passport.
The outcomes of the nine embezzlement cases, the first of which will be held later this year, are of interest to a number of major international banks who provided funds to BTA in the run-up to the scandal, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Under the terms of the rescheduling agreement, they will be awarded a share of any funds recovered from Ablyazov.
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