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Kazakh Weekly Offers Bank Debt Cancellation To Pay Fine

Oksana Makushina, deputy editor in chief
Oksana Makushina, deputy editor in chief
ALMATY -- The independent Kazakh weekly "Respublika" is offering the BTA Bank a mutual cancellation of debts in order to pay off a court ordered fine for libel, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

Guzyal Baydalinova, the newspaper's owner and editor in chief, told journalists in Almaty that she is prepared to pay the fine by cashing in some 40 million tenge ($267,000) in bonds she has with the TuranAlem Finance Bank, an affiliate of BTA Bank.

Baydalinova said that in the event that TuranAlem cannot repay her bonds, the BTA Bank is legally obliged to cover for it, as an affiliate bank.

She added that if the court and BTA Bank reject her proposal for a crosscancellation of debts between "Respublika" and BTA she will file a lawsuit in Kazakhstan and Great Britain against the bank to have it recognized as bankrupt.

An Almaty district court ruled on September 9 that "Respublika" must print an apology to BTA Bank and pay 60 million tenges (some $400,000) to BTA as "compensation for moral damage" for an article the weekly published that was deemed libelous by the court.

Oksana Makushina, the deputy editor in chief of "Respublik," said the case against the newspaper is politically motivated and the verdict means the weekly will have to close.

Last month the newspaper's editors told journalists that they would likely move their operations to the Internet if they lost the court case.

Earlier this summer, the opposition newspaper "Taszharghan" (The Stone Breaker) had to end publication after it lost a similar libel case.