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Jailed Kazakh Businessman Pleads Guilty To Killing Bank Chief In 2004

Mukhtar Ablyazov (file photo)

A jailed Kazakh businessman has pleaded guilty to murdering a banker on a hunting trip in 2004 and told a court he did so at the behest of Mukhtar Ablyazov, a fugitive tycoon and vocal critic of President Nursultan Nazarbaev.

Muratkhan Toqmadi, who has been serving a three-year prison term for extortion and illegal firearms possession since last year, entered the guilty plea as his trial on the murder charge began in the southern city of Taraz on February 16.

Authortiies say Erzhan Tatishev, the chief of TuranAlem Bank, was killed by a single shot to the head during a hunting outing with Toqmadi in 2004.

After Tatishev's death, which was ruled an accident at the time, Ablyazov became the bank's chief.

Wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion, Ablyazov has been living abroad since 2009.

He denies the embezzlement charges and has called allegations that he ordered Toqmadi's killing a "lie."

Opponents and rights groups say that Nazarbaev, who has held power in the Central Asian nation since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential opponents.

With reporting by Tengrinews and Kazinform