ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Preliminary hearings in Kazakhstan's case against fugitive tycoon and opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov have begun.
Three co-defendants in the case, who were present in the courtroom in Almaty on March 17, agreed that the hearing and the trial will be conducted in the absence of Ablyazov, who fled abroad in 2009.
The judge said that a trial date will be announced on March 18.
Investigators say Ablyazov and his subordinates embezzled some $5 billion while running BTA Bank in Kazakhstan. Ablyazov denies it, saying the case against him is politically motivated.
Ablyazov, who is also wanted in Russia, was arrested in France in 2013 after months on the run.
He was released from jail on December 9 after France's highest administrative court cancelled an order for his extradition to Russia, saying the request had been made for political reasons.