Runaway oligarch says Kazakh leader takes revenge on family
ALMATY (Reuters) - Fugitive Kazakh oligarch and dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov said on Saturday his wife and daughter were with relatives in the city of Almaty, after earlier accusing President Nursultan Nazarbayev of "kidnapping" them following their deportation from Italy.
Ablyazov, 50, fled the oil-rich Central Asian state after his bank BTA was nationalized and declared insolvent in 2009. The former government minister, who says his life is in danger, was granted political asylum in Britain in 2011.
BTA has brought fraud charges against Ablyazov and his allies. Accused of embezzling $6 billion, he has been in hiding since last year when he fled Britain after missing a contempt of court hearing at which he was due to be jailed for 22 months.
Ablyazov, accused at home of stoking unrest, said on his Facebook page that Italian police had taken his wife Alma Shalabayeva from a house in a Rome suburb on May 29. He said police had removed his six-year-old daughter Alua on Friday.
Kazakhstan's official news agency Kazinform said Italian authorities had deported Ablyazov's wife and daughter to Kazakhstan because his wife had been living in Italy illegally.
Her Italian lawyer, Riccardo Olivo, told Reuters she did not have a valid visa, but should not have been sent back to Kazakhstan because she would be in put danger.
"It is incredible how quickly this took place. They handed her over as a hostage to a dictator and this is very grave," Olivo said.
But Ablayzov said on Facebook later on Saturday that his wife and daughter had been taken to the home of relatives in Almaty, suggesting they were not in imminent danger.
Italian news agency Ansa said Ablyazov's wife had been found to have a false passport issued by the Central African Republic in the name of Ayan Alma. The Kazakh authorities could not be reached for comment and Olivo said it was not clear if the passport was false or authentic.
Kazakhstan's presidency declined to comment.
Ablyazov said his wife and daughter had been in Italy legally. He said a local judge had ordered they should be sent to Kazakhstan, after which they were put on a private jet bound for the Kazakh capital Astana.
"I declare that the kidnapping of my family was ordered by President Nursultan Nazarbayev," Ablyazov had said while they were en route to Kazakhstan.
Ablyazov, a theoretical physics graduate who earned a fortune after the Soviet Union's demise, told Reuters in an interview in December that he would run for office if free elections were called when Nazarbayev's rule ends.
Nazarbayev, 72, has governed his vast nation of 17 million for more than two decades. He has overseen market reforms and foreign investment inflows that have ensured rapid economic growth, but he has tolerated no dissent.
In October, Ablyazov's friend Vladimir Kozlov, also a fierce critic of Nazarbayev, was found guilty by a Kazakh court of colluding with the runaway oligarch in attempting to bring down Kazakhstan's government and jailed for seven-and-a-half years.
(Additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome, Raushan Nurshayeva in Astana and Steve Gutterman in Moscow; Editing by Mike Collett-White)
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