MOSCOW, June 7 (RAPSI) - The Specialized Criminal Interdistrict Court of Almaty has sentenced ex-chairman of the Kazakh BTA Bank Mukhtar Ablyazov to 20 years in prison in absentia for embezzlement and organizing a criminal gang, the court told RAPSI on Wednesday.

The court also ordered forfeiture of Ablyazov’s property.

Ex-Director for Lending Issues Kairat Sadykov was sentenced to 15 years in prison and asset seizure. Former Chairman of the Board Saduakas Mamesh and ex-First Deputy Chairman of the Board Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov received a 5-year suspended sentence each.

According to indictment, Ablyazov has organized a criminal group to embezzle BTA Bank’s funds. Prosecutors claimed that companies controlled by Ablyazov had purchased the bank’s shares on money from loans illegally received from the bank. Therefore, Ablyazov and his accomplices “increased the bank stock.” The increase in the bank's capital gave the appearance of BTA Bank’s success and enticed investors and depositors, prosecutors believe. The total amount of damage caused exceeded $7.5 billion.

Zharimbetov pleaded guilty to charges, while Sadykov and Mamesh pleaded guilty in part.

Interestingly, Ablyazov also stands charged with embezzlement, forgery of documents and abuse of office in Russia. He has been arrested in absentia.

BTA Bank ex-chairman fled to the UK after the Kazakh government acquired a stake in BTA Bank in 2009 and the bank came under the control of its sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna.

He was granted political asylum in Britain in 2011. However, he remained a fugitive from justice since February 2012.

His whereabouts remained unknown until he was detained on July 31, 2013 near Cannes, France. Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine are all seeking his extradition.

In October 2015, French authorities approved Ablyazov’s extradition to Russia. In December 2016, French Conseil d'État, highest administrative government body, overruled prime-minister’s decision to extradite Ablyazov and released the tycoon from jail.