NUR-SULTAN -- The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) has extradited to Kazakhstan the former managing director of the country's BTA Bank, Rustam Ibragimov, an alleged associate of a leading opposition figure residing in France, Mukhtar Ablyazov.
The Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office said on March 5 that Ibragimov is suspected of assisting Ablyazov with the illegal transfer of significant sums of money from BTA Bank to foreign financial institutions.
According to the office, Ibragimov's extradition became possible after a Kyrgyz passport he used had been found to be illegal as a result of joint efforts between Kazakh, Kyrgyz and U.A.E. authorities.
Ibragimov has been placed in a detention center in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, the statement added.
Ablyazov, a former BTA head, is wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion. Ablyazov and his supporters reject the charge as politically motivated.
Ablyazov was sentenced to life in prison in absentia in 2018 after a court found him guilty of masterminding the murder of a banker in 2004.
In a separate trial in absentia in Kazakhstan that ended in 2017, Ablyazov was convicted of embezzlement, abuse of office, and organizing a criminal group and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
Ablyazov, who coordinates the activities of the banned Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan movement from abroad, denies all the charges.
Several politicians and activists have fled Kazakhstan in recent years, fearing for their safety or anticipating politically motivated prosecution.