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Sleuths Hunt for Kazakh Bank’s Missing $6 Billion

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On a blustery February morning in 2011, Chris Hardman waited anxiously inside a Big Yellow Self Storage center in north London. A banner fastened to the box-shaped building’s facade read “Get some space in your life.” All Hardman wanted to do was see the contents of storage unit E2010.

Hardman, a fraud litigator at Hogan Lovells International LLP, was hunting for $6 billion that had disappeared two years earlier from his client BTA Bank JSC, the No. 1 commercial lender in Kazakhstan at the time. Armed with a court-issued search order, he felt his hopes mount as a workman cut through the storage unit’s padlock, he recalls.