The coincidence is disturbing. The main Kazakh opponent, Moukhtar Abliazov, had just obtained political refugee status in France, where he has lived since 2013, when he was arrested by police on a street in Paris and taken into custody on Monday. October 5. Used to being hunted down everywhere since he denounced, twenty years earlier, the massive corruption of the Kazakh state apparatus, one of the most authoritarian regimes in Central Asia, he even initially believed that ‘they were spies.
The former oligarch, 57, was arrested following a complaint filed in 2017 by Kazakhstan, which accuses him of embezzling 6.4 billion euros to the detriment of the bank BTA, of which he was the PDG before his nationalization in 2009. The Kazakh authorities relied on a provision of the French penal code which provides that a court can try a foreigner whose extradition has been refused for political reasons, for a crime or an offense committed outside France.
Heard on Wednesday October 7 at the Paris tribunal de grande instance, Moukhtar Abliazov was indicted for “aggravated breach of trust” and “aggravated money laundering”, then released under judicial supervision. “The Paris prosecutor’s office took up a complaint from Kazakhstan, which it could have refused to take into account, and stupidly referred a French investigating judge”, deplores his lawyer, Gérard Tcholakian.
The decision of the National Court of Asylum (CNDA), rendered on September 29 after seven years of twists and turns, is however clear: Moukhtar Abliazov, already sentenced in 2017 in Kazakhstan, in his absence, to twenty years in prison in this embezzlement case, is “Persecuted for political reasons”. The document also denounces the “Manœindirect works’ of Kazakhstan through the attempts to extradite the person to Ukraine and Russia presented to the French authorities, as well as the circulation of an international arrest warrant and “red notices” to Interpol.
Also convinced that Kazakhstan is waging a judicial harassment of Mukhtar Abliazov for political reasons, the Council of State refused his extradition in December 2016. For the same reason, Interpol also withdrew him from its records in July 2017.
Was the investigating judge at the Paris prosecutor’s office aware of the decision of the National Court of Asylum, which granted him political refugee status, when the opponent was arrested in the middle of the street? His lawyer, Gérard Tcholakian, considers him to be a “Unfortunate chance”. “The CNDA’s decision does not prevent the prosecution from taking action, he explains. For three and a half years, this file had been dormant. My client having been arrested, he will now be able to defend himself. “
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