ROME 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 Friday.
Lawyer Anton Giulio Lana said in 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.
Kazakhstan wants the return of Ablyazov from France, where he is currently being held, although on April 9, a French appeals court blocked his extradition from France to Ukraine or Russia, overturning a lower court ruling.
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 oil producer.
Ablyazov is at the center 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. 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.
(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by Mark Heinrich)