Moscow City Court refuses to seize warehouse in BTA Bank case
MOSCOW, February 9 (RAPSI) - The Moscow City Court confirmed a lower court’s refusal to seize a logistics center in Tatarstan in the case regarding embezzlement from BTA Bank (Kazakhstan), a RAPSI correspondent reports from the courtroom.
The judge rejected a complaint by the lawyer of the BTA Bank, Sergei Yermolenko, who insisted that the rental fees for the storage facility are used to fund criminal activity of an organized group involved in the embezzlement. Specifically, the lawyer claims that the bank’s former lawyer, Yelena Tishchenko, who is to be extradited from the Czech Republic, receives $150,000 every month.
Yermolenko believes that the bank’s former chief, Mukhtar Ablyazov, uses the money collected from renting out the center for his criminal activity.
“Over 70 million rubles were lost, and the only way to get the money back is a timely arrest of the property. Otherwise, those affected will get no money,” Yermolenko said in his courtroom speech.
At the hearing, the judge refused to arrest the storage facility due to a discrepancy over the cadastral number in the paperwork. Moreover, the investigator did not attend the hearing in order to provide the court with evidence that Ablyazov and other alleged members of the criminal group do receive the rental money.
At the Moscow City Court, both the investigator and the prosecutor upheld the BTA Bank lawyer’s request. However, the judge of the appeal panel rejected it.
Ablyazov fled to the UK after the Kazakh government acquired a stake in BTA in 2009 and the bank came under the control of its sovereign wealth fund, Samruk-Kazyna. Kazakhstan claims that Ablyazov embezzled over $6 billion. He was granted political asylum in Britain in 2011.
Ablyazov is also wanted in Russia for the alleged embezzlement of about $5 billion and in Ukraine, where he allegedly embezzled $400 million via illegal transactions.
The ex-banker was placed on Interpol’s wanted list and detained in July 2013 near Cannes, France. Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine are all seeking the extradition of the fugitive banker. In early January 2014, a court in France's Aix-en-Provence ruled to extradite him to Russia or Ukraine, with priority given to Russia.
On April 9, 2014, the criminal chamber of Paris’s Cour de Cassation, the court of final appeal for civil and criminal cases in France, ruled to block Ablyazov’s extradition because of an administrative error by the court. Specifically, the ex-banker had not signed the official protocol as required.
The cassation court ordered the case to be heard again, assigning it to a court in Lyon. On October 24, the court ruled to extradite Ablyazov to Russia.
Ablyazov has denied all charges. His lawyers say he is being persecuted for political reasons.
However, several defendants in the BTA Bank embezzlement case have been already convicted in Moscow. In October, nationalist Alexander Belov (Potkin) involved in the case was arrested at Hotel Intourist Kolomenskoe in Moscow. The court initially placed Belov under house arrest, but later sent him in pre-trial detention. He stands accused of laundering money embezzled from BTA Bank.