Russia Sentences Fugitive Kazakh Banker Ablyazov In Absentia To 15 Years

By RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

A Russian court has sentenced Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and an opposition politician, to 15 years in prison in absentia on embezzlement charges he has denied.

The Moscow Tagansky District Court handed down the sentence on December 29 after finding him guilty in a criminal case regarding the alleged embezzlement of 58 billion rubles ($790 million) between 2006 and 2009.

Four other defendants, all former BTA Bank employees, were tried in absentia in the same case and received prison terms ranging between 10 years and 13 years.

According to investigators, Ablyazov developed complex schemes aimed at financing investment projects in Russia that allowed him to embezzle funds from BTA Bank in large amounts.

Ablyazov, who has been living in Europe since 2009, is also sought by Kazakhstan and Ukraine, where he is facing similar charges. He has rejected all of the allegations against him calling them politically motivated.

A Kazakh court in 2017 convicted Ablyazov, a vocal critic of the authorities and head of the banned opposition Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DVK), of embezzlement and sentenced him to 20 years in prison after an in-absentia trial he called "a farce."

The next year, he was handed a life sentence on a murder charge.

France granted political asylum to the exiled opposition leader in September 2020.