Uzbekistan has extradited a man suspected of embezzlement to neighboring Kazakhstan, the latest development in a politically-charged case involving the Kazakh bank BTA.
The Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office said on January 28 that Artur Trofimov was suspected of embezzling and laundering significant amounts of cash from BTA in 2005-2009.
It said that Trofimov, whose citizenship was not disclosed, is also suspected of creating and leading an organized criminal group.
In 2005-2009, the head of BTA bank was Mukhtar Ablyazov, a vocal critic of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev who is now a fugitive and lives in France.
In 2017, a court in Kazakhstan convicted Ablyazov in absentia of embezzlement, abuse of office, and organizing a criminal group, and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
In a separate case, Ablyazov was convicted in November 2018 of organizing the 2004 murder of Erzhan Tatishev, the head of the TuranAlem bank, which was later renamed BTA. He was sentenced in absentia to life in prison.
Ablyazov denies all the charges, saying they are politically motivated, and has called the claim that he ordered Tatishev's killing a "lie."
Several politicians and activists have fled Kazakhstan in recent years, fearing for their safety or anticipating politically motivated prosecution.
Opponents and rights groups say that Nazarbaev, who has held power in the energy-producing Central Asian nation since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential opponents.