Ex-BTA Chairman Ablyazov Can Appeal 22 Month Jail Term

Mukhtar Ablyazov, the former chairman of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank JSC, can appeal a London court’s decision to sentence him to 22 months in jail for contempt.

The former bank executive went into hiding in February after he was found in contempt of court for lying about his assets and moving money, in violation of a 2009 asset freeze issued in a fraud case. Ablyazov has said he fears for his safety and the lawsuits against him are politically motivated.

“It is striking that the fears for Ablyazov’s personal safety on which he now relies so heavily were voiced only after judgment was given in the committal proceedings,” Judge Martin Moore-Bick said in his written judgment. “It would not be in the interests of justice to require Ablyazov to surrender himself to custody as a condition of proceeding with this appeal. However badly he may have behaved.”

BTA, which was the biggest lender in Kazakhstan before it defaulted on $12 billion of debt in 2009, filed a series of civil suits against Ablyazov and ex-Chief Executive Officer Roman Solodchenko claiming they took more than $5 billion from the Almaty-based bank using fake loans, back-dated documents and offshore companies. Both men have denied the claims.

“We accept the court’s decision and will continue to pursue the recovery of assets for the benefit of our creditors and shareholders,” the bank said in an e-mailed statement. “The judgment has no impact on the merits of either the appeal or the litigation generally.”

July Appeal

The appeal against the sentence is scheduled to start in early July. Another London court ruled this week that Ablyazov’s lawyers didn’t have to disclose his contact details as it would breach his right to privileged legal advice.

“This was a draconian attempt to shut him out,” Richard Leedham, the lawyer at Addleshaw Goddard LLP representing Ablyazov, said in a phone interview today. “There are certain fundamental principles available that even a person in his position should be able to take advantage of.”

The case is: JSC BTA Bank v. Mukhtar Ablyazov, [2011] EWHC 1136 (Comm), Royal Courts of Justice (London).

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