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Kazakh leader's son-in-law sues media in libel case

* Dismisses corruption allegations as slander

* Court orders print runs seized

ALMATY, Feb 2 (Reuters) - The influential son-in-law of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev has filed a libel lawsuit against several local newspapers after they published a letter accusing him of corruption, one of the outlets said on Tuesday.

Timur Kulibayev, married to Nazarbayev’s second daughter Dinara, is one of Kazakhstan’s most prominent figures and is often tipped as his father-in-law’s possible successor.

He filed the lawsuit after three Kazakh papers published a letter last week by an exiled Kazakh banker accusing Kulibayev of corruption. Kulibayev has not commented on the case.

“Kulibayev has considered this information false and filed a lawsuit,” the opposition Respublika weekly said in a statement, adding that a district court in the financial capital Almaty has since ordered the print runs of the newspapers seized.

In the letter, former banker Mukhtar Ablyazov accused Kulibayev of pocketing a portion of proceeds from the sale of a government stake in a Kazakh oil company to a state Chinese major. The government sold the stake for $150 million in 2003.

Under Nazarbayev’s leadership, Kazakhstan has attracted more than $50 billion in foreign investment since independence, mainly in the oil, gas and metals sectors.

Concerned with the continuity of their projects, investors are watching the oft murky world of Kazakh politics closely but information is scarse and commenting on the issue of successorship remains taboo among politicians.

Kulibayev, 43, is deputy chief executive of Kazakhstan’s powerful state welfare fund Samruk-Kazyna which controls key state companies such as energy firm KazMunaiGas [KMG.UL].

Kulibayev and his wife indirectly own a 41.8 percent stake in Kazakhstan's second-largest bank, London-listed Halyk HSBKq.LHSBK.KZ.

The exiled politician who made the allegation, Mukhar Ablyazov, once Kazakhstan's energy minister, used to run another Kazakh bank, BTA BTAS.KZ, until early 2009.

The state accused Ablyazov of fraud last year, blaming him for part of BTA’s losses which exceeded $8 billion. Ablyazov, who has since left Kazakhstan, has denied any wrongdoing. BTA has since been nationalised.

Editing by Maria Golovnina and Ralph Boulton

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