LONDON Feb 26 The UK's highest court has
rejected a last-ditch attempt by fugitive Kazakh oligarch
Mukhtar Ablyazov to defend himself in court against charges that
he masterminded one of the largest frauds to be tried in
The decision means that Ablyazov, who has been in hiding
since a UK judge attempted to jail him for contempt of court
last February, has run out of legal options in Britain unless he
turns himself in and fully declares his assets.
Three Supreme Court judges refused to grant Ablyazov
permission to appeal a court order that prevents him from
defending himself at trial against allegations that he embezzled
about $6 billion from BTA Bank, of which he was
BTA, once one of Kazakhstan's largest banks, has brought 11
fraud claims in England against Ablyazov. The former Kazakh
government minister, however, denies allegations that he says
are designed to rob him and eliminate him as an opponent to
Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Speaking to Reuters over a secure telephone line from his
hideaway in December, Ablyazov vowed to bring a claim against
Britain in the European Court of Human Rights for breaching his
right to a fair trial if the UK Supreme Court turned him down.
His lawyer at London firm Addleshaw Goddard, which has also
represented Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky, was not
immediately available for comment.
BTA managing director Pavel Prosyankin said that the ruling
would speed asset recovery. The bank has won a $2 billion
default judgment against Ablyazov and, while it awaits further
similar judgments, is keen to sell assets such as Ablyazov's
lavish London mansion and country estate.
"The Supreme Court's decision reinforces the bank's ability
to start to reverse the processes by which Mr Ablyazov
fraudulently diverted assets from the bank," Prosyankin said in
BTA, controlled by Kazakhstan's powerful sovereign wealth
fund Samruk-Kazyna, has pursued its former chairman since it was
nationalised and declared insolvent in 2009, accusing him of
using fraudulent loans and shell companies to line his and his
Ablyazov, a former theoretical physics graduate,
entrepreneur and politician who fled to Britain after he says
BTA was seized, was granted political asylum in 2011.
A UK judge conceded in 2011 that the evidence he provided
before going into hiding painted a "chilling picture" of life in
Kazakhstan, but he refused to strike out the claims against
Ablyazov and his allies as politically motivated.
In November Court of Appeal judges labelled him "devious"
and "cynical" while rejecting a previous attempt by his London
legal team to overturn the debarring order.
Since November, the cases against Ablyazov have been winding
their way through court without him. Their focus is now on the
remaining defendants accused of conspiring with him.