In 2004, one of Kazakhstan’s most prominent bankers, Erzhan Tatishev, lay dead after what was then deemed “a hunting accident”. More than a decade later, Muratkhan Tokmadi, the man convicted of accidentally killing him, admitted his guilt and told a court that he was threatened by Kazakh oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov that if he did not murder Tatishev, the former chairman of BTA Bank, that Tokmadi and his family would be killed.
The cover of Gary Cartwright’s recently released book about the Ablyazov case.
The cover of Gary Cartwright’s recently released book about the Ablyazov case.

Kazakh state prosecutors have accused Ablyazov, who holds French residency, of ordering the murder of Tatishev and embezzling as much as $10 billion. Gary Cartwright, the author of the just released book, ‘Wanted Man: The Story of Mukhtar Ablyazov, The World’s Richest Fraudster’, says the figure is closer to $7.6 billion.

“It’s a story that goes from a village in Kazakhstan to the White House,” said Cartwright during his presentation of the book at the Brussels Press Club. “Ablyazov is one of the world’s richest fraudsters”

The author explained that Ablyazov is a fugitive banker who is wanted in Russia and Ukraine and is convicted in absentia in London for contempt of court with a sentence of 22 months and in Kazakhstan – to 20 years in prison for embezzling $7.5 billion from the BTA bank.

Cartwright hopes that the story of Ablyazov, who is also wanted in Ukraine and Russia, serves as a reminder that his illegal business practices are not unique, but that Kazakhstan’s powerful organized crime rings took advantage of the former Soviet republic’s growth over the last two decades and created “a very highly organised criminal syndicate that branched out into massive money laundering.”

“He has been jailed in Kazakhstan, he spent two years in a French jail and has three consecutive sentences in the UK. He is wanted for extradition by Russia, Ukraine, and his native Kazakhstan where he has two more upstanding sentences,” said Cartwright.

Cartwright also alleged that Ablyazov’s Brussels active NGO, the Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF), is a front for money laundering. “There is some Human rights work from ODF, but it is mostly from volunteers,” Cartwright explained, while saying that the positive work done by the ODF generally focuses on trying to free Ukrainian artists and political prisoners who remain incarcerated in Russia.

So where is Ablyazov today?

 

Mukhtar Ablyazov’s lawyer, Bruno Rebstock, after a court hearing in the courthouse of Aix-en-Provence, Southern France
Mukhtar Ablyazov’s lawyer, Bruno Rebstock, after a court hearing in the courthouse of Aix-en-Provence, Southern France

“We know there is ongoing litigation in the US against Ablyazov,” Cartwright said, adding that Ablyazov is most likely in France and could be “negotiating with the Belgian government” to acquire Belgian citizenship in exchange for evidence in a scandal that includes Belgian officials and shady dealings in Kazakhstan.

“France, although it does not have an extradition treaty with Kazakhstan, does have an arrangement with Russia and Ukraine,” Cartwright writes in his book. Despite France’s previous refusal to enact these extradition requests, the arrangements can be made, which would leave Ablyazov vulnerable, which Cartwright describes as a possible “final chapter of what may be described as one of the greatest financial and political scandals of our time.”