Fugitive Kazakh Oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov Arrested in France
Reuters reports Mukhtar Ablyazov was arrested in the village of Mouans-Sartoux, located about 5 miles (8 km) north of Cannes. A lawyer for his family told the Financial Times that Ablyazov was captured by French special forces and that Russia has requested his extradition. France’s judicial police said that the extradition request was made by Ukraine.
The 50-year-old entrepreneur and former Kazakh government minister was once one of the wealthiest men in his country, but he fled his homeland in 2009 after BTA, the bank he once controlled, defaulted during the financial crisis. BTA was seized by the government and Ablyazov fled to Britain, where he was granted political asylum.
BTA then filed 11 fraud charges against Ablyazov. He is also accused of money laundering and having connections to organized crime. BTA, which is controlled by the Kazakh sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna, received court permission to seize some $3.7 billion of Ablyazov’s assets. The exiled oligarch vehemently denies the allegations against him, claiming dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev is trying to eliminate him as a possible rival. Ablyazov also claims his life is in danger.
Ablyazov fled Britain last year after being sentenced to nearly two years in prison for contempt of court. He was in hiding from the time he left the UK until his capture.
Ablyazov made headlines in June when Italian authorities, acting on a request from the Kazakh government, raided a Rome villa where he was believed to be hiding. He wasn’t there, but police apprehended his wife and young daughter and illegally deported them to Kazakhstan. The incident led to an unsuccessful effort by Italy’s opposition parties to remove Interior Minister Angelino Alfano from office.