July 4 (Bloomberg) -- Kazakhstan’s central bank said it is studying allegations by a senior BTA Bank executive that his signatures were forged last year to backdate documents before the lender was forced into its second debt restructuring.
“Some steps will certainly be taken,” central bank Chairman Grigori Marchenko told reporters today in Almaty. “But all these things must be looked into and proved.” The regulator’s financial-oversight committee is carrying out the probe.
The BTA official, who served on the lender’s management board, filed a complaint after discovering the fraudulent use of his electronic signatures in May 2011, Bloomberg News reported on June 6 citing three people, who declined to be identified because the information isn’t public. Citing commercial confidentiality, BTA declined at the time to confirm or deny the existence of any complaint or internal investigation.
The allegations raise questions about the bank’s controls and oversight following the state’s takeover of the country’s biggest lender before its default on $12 billion of debt in 2009. Almaty-based BTA proposed a second restructuring in December to stave off bankruptcy and later failed to make an interest payment on its bonds.
Graft is pervasive in Kazakh banking, with every seventh borrower paying a bribe to secure a loan, the Sange research center in Almaty said in a poll released in February. BTA was ranked as the country’s fifth-most corrupt lender in the survey, with customers often encountering demands for kickbacks or requests for repayment ahead of schedule.
The bank’s rules allow management-board members exclusive use of electronic copies of their signatures. The executive complained his name was used to sign about 30 documents, containing a total of about 500 individual items, in two instances over a combined period of about eight minutes, according to the report.
The press service of the lender’s state-run parent, Samruk-Kazyna, referred all questions to BTA Chairman Anvar Saidenov and Chief Executive Officer Erik Balapanov. The existing system of using electronic signatures by board members at BTA makes unauthorized use or unsanctioned third-party access impossible, the bank said June 1 in an e-mailed statement.
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