MOSCOW, October 16 (RAPSI) – Alexander Potkin (a.k.a Alexander Belov, b. 1976), former leader of the Russian nationalist Movement Against Illegal Immigration, has been arrested in the case of the $5 billion embezzlement at the Kazakh bank BTA, Kommersant newspaper reported on Thursday, citing sources at the Russian Interior Ministry.
Ex-head of BTA Bank Mukhtar 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 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 Cour de Cassation ordered the case to be heard again, assigning it to a court in Lyon.
Kommersant writes, citing its police sources, that Potkin, who was arrested at Hotel Intourist Kolomenskoe in Moscow, allegedly managed and laundered part of the embezzled BTA assets on Ablyazov’s orders, “primarily the most liquid assets such as land plots with a total area of 2.5 hectares in the Domodedovo District near Moscow.”
In 2012, Ablyazov was sentenced to 22 months in jail in the UK for “serious” and “brazen” contempt of court in trying to hide more than £34 million (over $54 million) of assets from creditors. Potkin subsequently took over the management of media and other Russian assets of the fugitive banker.
BTA bank has confirmed that Potkin has been arrested. Kommersant writes that he could be charged with money (asset) laundering.