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Fugitive Kazakh Banker Ablyazov Sentenced To 20 Years In Absentia, Decries 'Farce'

  • RFE/RL's Kazakh Service

Kazakh banker Mukhtar Ablyazov (file photo)

ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan has sentenced fugitive tycoon and opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov to 20 years in prison, after an in-absentia trial Ablyazov called "a farce."

The court in Almaty convicted Ablyazov on June 7 of organizing and leading a criminal group, abuse of office, embezzlement, and financial mismanagement. It issued the sentence the same day.

One of Ablyazov's three lesser-known co-defendants, who were present at the trial, was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The other two were given suspended sentences.

Ablyazov, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Europe since 2009, dismissed the result of what he said was a "false" trial and a farce.

Speaking to RFE/RL hours after his verdict and sentence were pronounced, he said that he would advise his lawyer "not to waste time challenging the ruling."

"Nobody will trust that court's ruling. The ruling has no power in the West," Ablyazov said. "I do not care what sort of decision they are making there about me. Because this trial is false."

Investigators say Ablyazov and his subordinates embezzled some $5 billion while running BTA Bank in Kazakhstan. Ablyazov denies it, contending that 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 canceled an order for his extradition to Russia, saying Moscow had made the request for political reasons.

Several politicians and activists have fled Kazakhstan in recent years, fearing for their safety or anticipating politically motivated prosecution.

President Nursultan Nazarbaev, who has held power in the Central Asian state since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, tolerates little dissent.

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