May 30, 2018 / 5:17 AM / 6 months ago

Kazakhstan says Belgian court lifts $21.5 billion asset freeze

ALMATY (Reuters) - A Belgian court has lifted a freeze on about $21.5 billion (16.2 billion pounds) in Kazakhstan’s National fund assets imposed after a dispute with a Moldovan businessman, the Kazakh justice ministry said on Wednesday.

The largest asset freeze against the Central Asian nation, originally put in place last year over a $530 million claim against the Kazakh government by Anatolie Stati, will now be limited to the value of the claim, the ministry said in a statement.

Stati, his son Gabriel and their companies say they have been subjected to harassment from Astana aimed at forcing them to sell their Kazakh investments cheaply.

Kazakhstan denies the allegations. However, the Statis and two of their companies – Ascom Group S.A. and Terra Raf Trans Traiding Ltd - have won an international arbitration award of around $500 million against the Kazakh government.

Kazakhstan has refused to pay, accusing Stati of using fraudulent means to secure a favorable arbitration ruling and filing lawsuits against him. The Statis, in turn, filed enforcement lawsuits in several European countries which led to large-scale Kazakh asset freezes last year.

The justice ministry said on Wednesday the Belgian court could lifted the freeze on the remaining $530 million depending on a ruling by a British court - where Kazakhstan is disputing the Statis’ claim, with trial set to start in October.

The $59 billion rainy-day National fund, replenished by revenues from oil and metals exports, is one of Kazakhstan’s sovereign funds, invested mostly in bonds.

Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier

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