A U.S. bank has frozen $22.6 billion in assets owned by Kazakhstan's National Fund as part of a legal battle between the government in Astana and a Moldovan investor, the Reuters news agency reports.
Reuters on December 21 said Bank of New York Mellon had in October frozen the assets it holds for the Kazakh National Fund, leaving the government unable to access about 40 percent of the total holdings, which are highly derived from the country’s oil resources.
The reported action is a result of a lawsuit by Moldovan businessman Anatolie Stati against the Kazakh government.
Stati, his son Gabriel, and two family controlled companies invested in Kazakhstan's oil and gas industry and allege they were victims of harassment by the Kazakh government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev aimed at forcing them to sell their investments below fair price.
The Statis refused to sell the assets to the government and found an alternative buyer. However, they claim, that deal fell through after the government seized the oil fields.
Anatolie and Gabriel Stati and two of their companies won an international arbitration award of around $500 million against the government in 2013.
The Kazakh government has denied the allegations and refused to pay.
Reuters said the asset freeze comes from Stati’s attempts to pursue the payments.
A spokeswoman for the Bank of New York Mellon declined to comment, and the Kazakh Justice Ministry could not be reached for comment, Reuters reported.
The Statis have been embroiled in controversial deals over the years, according to a report published last year by RISE Moldova, a community of investigative reporters, which says the two businessmen had established multiple offshore companies to hide and re-channel their assets.