Saturday, 20 March 2010

Development company accused of helping to steal almost $3 billion

A crime ring of fraudulent development bosses has been smashed by police - but the alleged leader of the group remains at large and living in London.

Senior managers of Evrasia Logistic, CEO Alexander Volkov, finance director Artyom Bondarenko, legal head Denis Vorotyntsev and economics director Alexei Belov were all arrested in Russia, Kommersant reported.

They are suspected of helping Kazakh businessman Mukhtar Ablyazov steal up to $2.8 billion.

Investigators believe Ablyazov abused his position within Kazakhstan's BTA Bank to ensure that various loans made to his other businesses - including Evrasia Logistic - did not have to be repaid.

Then he cashed in the proceeds and fled to London.

The authorities claim that the businessman appropriated $2-2.8 billion in collateral property, but Ablyazov told Vedomosti he knew nothing of any criminal case against him in Russia.

He believes the charges are politically motivated following his conflict with the Astana government over plans to nationalise BTA last year.

"I did not agree with this decision and filed lawsuits in the international courts against the government of Kazakhstan, says Ablyazov. What is happening in Russia now is a reaction to my latest actions. I assume that Russia's law-enforcement agencies were misled by the Kazakh authorities," he told Vedomosti.

The court in Kazakhstan has already found 12 former employees of the bank guilty in creation of an organized crime group with the aim of conducting financial machinations, large theft, and abuse of official position and concealment of crime. They received between 2 and 8 years in prison.

Ablyazov previously accused Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's son-in-law Timur Kulebaev of receiving bribes while selling large oil assets. However, the financial police of the country checked the matter and refused in the opening of the criminal case, it was announced on Friday.

The BTA Bank's offices in Moscow were reportedly searched in connection with the investigation. The bank's representatives deny this information.

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