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Kazakh Media Heads Reshuffled As Nazarbaev Accused Of Embezzlement

Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former top manager of the BTA Bank who lives in exile in Europe
Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former top manager of the BTA Bank who lives in exile in Europe
ASTANA -- The heads of several media outlets in Kazakhstan have been replaced following a statement by an exiled businessman accusing President Nursultan Nazarbaev of embezzlement, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

On July 4, the website of the opposition newspaper "Respublika" posted a statement by Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former top manager of the BTA Bank who lives in exile in Europe.

In it, Ablyazov accused Nazarbaev of having embezzled 49.9 percent of the shares of the Kazakh TV company Khabar.

He also stated that Khabar -- while owned by Nazarbaev's daughter, Dariga Nazarbaeva, and her then husband Rakhat Aliev -- failed to pay taxes and was sold to a state company for $100 million.

Ablyazov addressed his statement to the Prosecutor-General's Office, the head of the National Security Committee (KNB), the chairman of the financial police, and the Interior Ministry, calling on them to open criminal cases against Nazarbaev on charges of abuse of power, tax evasion, and embezzlement.

Officials in Nazarbaev's press office told RFE/RL they were busy preparing for upcoming "Astana Day" celebrations and thus unable to give an official response to Ablyazov's accusations.

Meanwhile, on July 4, news agencies reported that several heads of Kazakh media outlets -- including Khabar -- had been replaced.

Khabar Chairman Gulnara Iksanova was reportedly succeeded by Aidos Ukibaev, who was previously Khabar's deputy chairman.

Ukibaev refused to comment about Ablyazov's accusations when contacted by RFE/RL.

Nurzhan Mukhamedzhanova, formerly the head of TV Channel 31, replaced Zhanay Omarov as chairwoman of the television and radio company Kazakhstan.

Meanwhile, Omarov replaced Aleksandr Tarakov as chairman of "Kazakhstanskaya Pravda" (Kazakhstan's Truth).

Tarakov, in turn, was appointed deputy chairman and chief editor of "Kazakhstanskaya pravda."

Ablyazov ran BTA when it was the country's largest private bank before he had a falling out with government officials and fled to London in 2009. The bank was subsequently nationalized by the government.

The bank is pursuing claims against Ablyazov in a U.K. court for alleged fraud of $4 billion. In January, the Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office requested that British authorities extradite him.

Ablyazov has frequently criticized the Kazakh government and Nazarbaev in the past two years, accusing him and his family members of vast corruption and of being an illegitimate president.