LONDON, December 15 - RAPSI. Former Kazakh BTA bank's head Mukhtar Ablyazov has begun to testify in the High Court of Justice in London which is hearing the BTA's application for placing Ablyazov in custody for the contempt of court, RIA Novosti reports.

Ablyazov, the main defendant in the case, should have started testifying last week, but the hearing was delayed for technical and procedural reasons.

Ablyazov reminded the court that he was appointed chairman in 2005, but did not expect to hold the position for a long time.

He said he intended to turn BTA into a full-service international bank with ramified network, like HSBC, and finally managed to have HSBC as its general advisor.

Then the plaintiff's attorney Stephen Smith started cross-questioning. He focused on Ablyazov's activities in the CIS counties, offshore companies and his actions after the proceedings against him were launched in London.

Ablyazov will continue his testimony on Thursday.

The criminal case against Ablyazov was initiated in early 2009 after the state acquired a stake in BTA and the bank slipped into control of Kazakhstan's sovereign fund "Samruk-Kazyna."Then Ablyazov fled from the country and is now living in the United Kingdom. He considers the charges against him politically motivated.

A Moscow district court issued an arrest warrant for Ablyazov in absentia on charges of large-scale fraud.

The Kazakh Prosecutor General's Office applied to the UK authorities for Ablyazov's extradition as he was suspected of large-scale fraud and draining bank's funds through letter-box companies.

Ablyazov's misappropriations while he was BTA Bank's CEO are estimated at $4.5 billion. Seven lawsuits have been filed against the businessman.

RIA Novosti earlier found out from the sources familiar with the situation that such British banks as HSBC, Standard Chartered, RBS and Barclays incurred consequential losses amounting to $500 million. The banks hope to recover at least a part of the funds.

In early December 2010, a British court of appeals confirmed the High Court's decision to initiate receivership over Ablyazov's assets worth a total of $5 billion. His passport was taken and he was ordered to disclose his financial transactions.

In May 2011 the British court refused to recognize the bank's lawsuit against Ablyazov politically motivated and affirmed the validity of the bank's claims against its former head.

The recent hearing has become the High Court's ever largest fraud cause.

The Lawyer magazine ranked Ablyazov's case as a top-20 litigation of 2011.

The primary hearings are expected to be held in 2012.