(Updates with reason for April French court decision, more
ROME, April 19 The wife and daughter of a Kazakh
tycoon who is wanted in three countries for alleged fraud have
been granted refugee status in Italy, their lawyer said on
Lawyer Anton Giulio Lana said in a statement that an
Interior Ministry committee had granted Alma Shalabayeva and
daughter Alua a five-year, renewable permit of stay.
Shalabayeva is the wife of oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, a
political adversary of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev who
has ruled for more than two decades and tolerates no dissent.
Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have laid charges against
Ablyazov. He denies accusations he embezzled up to $6 billion
from BTA, the bank he once controlled and which is now
majority-owned by the state of Kazakhstan.
Ablyazov, a former Kazakh government minister, says the
allegations against him are fabricated and designed to rob him
of his assets and eliminate him as an opponent to Nazarbayev.
Kazakhstan wants the return of Ablyazov from France, where
he is currently being held. On April 9, a French appeals court
blocked his extradition to Ukraine or Russia, overturning a
lower court ruling because of an administrative error.
A legal adviser for BTA said when the extradition was
overturned that the first court ruling had upheld the Russian
and Ukrainian requests on their merits.
A spokesman for BTA said the case would start again because
of the administrative error and that the bank expected the new
French court to reach the same decision as the first court.
Ablyazov had been in hiding since being sentenced to prison
for contempt of court by an English judge in 2012.
The saga took on a strange twist in May last year when
Shalabayeva and her daughter, who had been living in Italy, were
detained in a lightning police operation and days later bundled
onto a private plane to Kazakhstan, where they were confined to
the city of Almaty.
They returned in December to Italy, where their earlier
deportation had created an uproar. Opposition politicians and
the press accused the government of having ignored normal
judicial and diplomatic procedures to please Kazakhstan, a major
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Rosalind Russell)