ALMATY -- The former head of Kazakhstan's BTA bank said from exile that he will try to draw the international community's attention to the case of 12 bankers and businesspeople sentenced recently to long prison terms, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.
Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former chairman of BTA who fled Kazakhstan after an investigation was launched into his alleged financial misdeeds, said in an online statement on December 29 that the verdict against his former colleagues and clients was ordered by the government.
He said "absurd charges" were used to sentence 12 people to prison and that some 30 others are being sought on charges. Ablyazov said about 40 more people pleaded guilty to charges in exchange for their freedom.
On December 25, an Almaty court convicted the 12 -- all of whom are affiliated with BTA -- of organizing a criminal gang with the aim of committing financial fraud, embezzlement, and other crimes. They were sentenced to prison terms ranging from two to eight years.
BTA Managing Director Bagdatgali Tasibekov, BTA Loan Department Deputy Director Yermek Dikanbaev, BTA board members Temir Aydos Mukataev and Askhat Yestaev, and director of the Kazakhstan Collection Agency Zhanibek Dzhumamuhambetov were sentenced to eight years in prison.
Bask Invest Director Yermek Janybekov, Mitra head Janna Bekbaeva, Dudar Capital Director Aleksei Domashenko, and Kamenskoe Plateau head Yerlan Beysekeev were each sentenced to five years in prison.
Temirbank Chairman Ablakhat Kebirov and Yeseke Director Daulet Dashev were given two-year sentences, while BTA Deputy Chairman Genrig Holodzinsky was sentenced to five years, suspended with three years of probation.
Janybekov's lawyer, Natalya Shakhova, said the trial went "in a civilized way" and the judge listened to everyone. But she added that all the defendants and their lawyers were shocked by the harsh prison terms, which were even longer than what prosecutors demanded.
Shakhova said all 12 defendants denied any wrongdoing and said they will appeal their cases within the next 15 days.
Ablyazov was sacked from his position as the head of BTA -- one of Kazakhstan's largest and most stable banks -- after the government bought a majority of the bank's shares in February.