ROME Dec 24 The wife of an exiled Kazakh
oligarch accused of embezzling millions of dollars from his
former bank thanked Italy on Tuesday for helping her to overturn
a travel ban, months after she was expelled from Rome.
Alma Shalabayeva, the wife of exiled oligarch Mukhtar
Ablyazov, thanked Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino in a
phone call for helping to persuade the Kazakh government to
allow her return to Europe, the Italian foreign ministry said.
The ministry said in a statement it would follow the case
closely and that the Italian charge d'affaires in Kazakhstan was
helping Shalabayeva with the formalities of obtaining a visa to
return to Europe.
Shalabayeva and her daughter were expelled from Rome, where
they had been living, in a lightning operation in June. Critics
including the Italian press, politicians and the Ablyazov
family's lawyers accused the government of ignoring normal
procedures to please Kazakhstan, a major oil producer. She was
sent back to live with her parents in Almaty but was not allowed
to leave the city.
Italy later said there had been irregularities and Prime
Minister Enrico Letta revoked the expulsion order in July.
Ablyazov, now a political opponent of Kazakh President
Nursultan Nazarbayev, is at the centre of a tortuous legal
battle with BTA, the bank he once controlled and which
is now majority owned by the state of Kazakhstan.
He was arrested in France in July after 18 months as a
fugitive and remains in custody facing possible extradition.
Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have laid charges against him.
He denies accusations he embezzled up to $6 billion from his
former bank, saying they are politically motivated.
Earlier this year, a British judge said Ablyazov instigated
a massive fraud against BTA, which has so far won court approval
to seize around $3.7 billion of his assets.
(Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)