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French Government Agrees To Extradite Fugitive Kazakh Tycoon To Russia

Mukhtar Ablyazov in 2008

Mukhtar Ablyazov in 2008

The French government has reportedly approved the extradition of Kazakh tycoon and opposition leader Mukhtar Ablyazov to Russia, where he is accused of embezzling billions of dollars.

Ablyazov's lawyer Peter Sahlas told the AFP news agency on October 12 that French Prime Minister Manuel Valls signed the extradition decree on September 17, adding that his client will challenge the decision.

In March, the top French appeals court upheld Ablyazov's extradition to either Russia or Ukraine, leaving it up to Valls to decide where to extradite the former Kazakh banker.

Kazakhstan has no extradition treaty with France, but has such deals with Russia and Ukraine.

An appellate court in the French city of Lyon authorized Ablyazov's extradition in October 2014.

Ablyazov, former head of Kazakhstan's BTA bank, is wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine for alleged embezzlement of some $5 billion.

Ablyazov says the charges against him are politically motivated.

He was arrested on the French Riviera in 2013 after months on the run.

Based on reporting by AFP