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Wednesday 28 November 2012

BTA Bank: Court Rules Against Ablyazov in $2 bln Suit


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(Bloomberg) – BTA Bank (BTAS) said a U.K. court ordered former chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov, accused of misappropriation from the Kazakh financial institution before its default three years ago, to pay £1.02 bln ($1.63 bln) plus interest. The lawsuits against Mr Ablyazov and others are among the biggest fraud claims ever brought in the UK High Court.

Mukhtar Ablyazov graduated in theoretical physics and at the age of 28 went into business after the break-up of the Soviet Union by establishing Astana Holding. In 1998, together with a consortium of Kazakh investors, he acquired shares in TuranAlem Bank, which later became known as BTA Bank, for $72 mln in a privatization auction.
In 2001, Ablyazov co-founded the Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK), an opposition political movement challenging the current president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. In his political career, he became minister of energy, industry and trade in Kazakhstan.
Soon after Mr Ablyazov left BTA in 2009, the Kazakh state took a 75.1% stake in the bank amid serious concerns about its future. The bank later underwent an insolvency process as the deficit of its assets versus liabilities reached $16 bln.

The court also ordered “new post-judgment asset-freezing orders be made against Mr. Ablyazov in an unlimited sum and new asset-freezing orders in relation to certain other defendants,” the Almaty-based bank said in statement on its website today, citing a November 23 ruling. The bank will now undertake enforcement steps following the verdict, it said.

Ablyazov fled Kazakhstan in 2009 to evade an arrest warrant shortly before the bank defaulted under $12 bln of debts. He was granted political asylum by the United Kingdom in 2011. The whereabouts of Ablyazov are unknown since he fled London for the European continent in February hours ahead of a 22-month jail sentence for contempt after he failed to reveal full details of his assets. Ablyazov’s declared worldwide assets worth some $6 bln have been frozen.

BTA Bank can now to lead off taking control of his assets. Meanwhile, according to the Swiss newspaper Le Temp, BTA still holds the funds through investment projects. Speaking with the Swiss newspaper via Skype, Ablyazov said hiding the money would have been “impossible”.

The Friday ruling relates to two of eight claims brought by BTA, which Ablyazov has been banned from defending unless he hands himself in or discloses all his assets. BTA bank has hounded Ablyazov with several other court claims in an attempt to recover the $5 bln it says he siphoned off during his tenure as chairman between 2005 and 2009.

Ablyazov’s lawyers deny knowing where their client is but say he intends to appeal to Britain’s Supreme Court.

BTA’s net loss widened to 658 bln tenge ($4.4 bln) in the first half from 103 bln tenge during the same period last year, according to the lender’s unaudited interim condensed consolidated statement.

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