LONDON, July 2 - RAPSI. Today the High Court of Justice will start hearing the appeal by former head of Kazakhstan's BTA Bank Mukhtar Ablyazov against the prison sentence that was passed on him this February but was never executed.

On February 16, the court found Ablyazov guilty of contempt of court and sentenced him to 22 months in prison (before hearing on the merits of the case had even begun), but it was impossible to execute the sentence as the 49-year-old businessman has been on the run ever since.

The businessman's attorneys have drawn up an appeal which is likely to be considered over the next couple of days. The court will shortly announce its decision at some point in July.

If Ablyazov's appeal is dismissed, BTA Bank will then be able to expropriate the businessman's assets, including his London property, to cover the moral damages he has been accused of.

The case against Ablyazov began in early 2009 after the state acquired a stake in BTA and the bank came under the control of Kazakhstan's Samruk-Kazyna sovereign fund. Ablyazov then fled the country and settled in the UK. He believes the charges against him are politically motivated. Kazakhstan seeks his extradition for large-scale fraud, draining the banks funds using dummy companies.

Russia has also launched criminal proceedings against Ablyazov. In October 2010 a Moscow district court issued an arrest warrant for Ablyazov in absentia on charges of large-scale fraud.