Kazakhstan: Bank chided by president goes into liquidation

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ASTANA (TCA) — The banking system in oil-rich Kazakhstan continues to suffer from problems, ranging from lack of liquidity to non-performing loans. The troubles in the banking sphere were admitted, and criticized, by the country’s president. We are republishing this article on the issue, originally published by Eurasianet:

A crisis-stricken bank in Kazakhstan that had come under criticism from the president has officially been liquidated.

The National Bank on January 17 said in a statement that the liquidation of Eximbank Kazakhstan followed a ruling by the Almaty economic court. The regulator said that retail and commercial accountholders will be compensated by a state deposit guarantee fund.

In truth, however, there are few clients still needing that help. Only 361 account-holders remained at Eximbank.

The bank had to all intents and purposes closed in August, when it was stripped of its banking license by the National Bank. The local affiliate of Forbes magazine has cited the regulator as saying that Eximbank’s assets had shrunk from January to August 2018 from 92 billion tenge ($277 million) to 60 billion tenge ($173 million).

The bank was jointly controlled by a group of Kazakh multimillionaires Yerkin Amirkhanov, Sergei Kan and Alexander Klebanov.

Eximbank’s fate appeared grim after April, when President Nursultan Nazarbayev complained about it and two other lenders, Astana Bank and Qazaq Banki, saying that they “showed bad results because the shareholders ran them badly.”

The remarks were presumably intended as a way of galvanizing the banks into better performance, but the result was quite the opposite. Clients laid siege to the banks in a desperate attempt to get their savings out. The outflow of money worsened an already bad situation that culminated with the National Bank pulling the licenses of all three banks. For Eximbank, liquidation is the end of the road.

For one shareholder, things have gotten even worse. The National Security Committee, or KNB, the latter-day incarnation of the KGB, in May detained Amirkhanov — whose wealth Forbes Kazakhstan had in 2017 estimated at $135 million — on charges of bribery. No details of the case have been disclosed.

That same month, police in Moscow detained another well-known Kazakh banker, Zhomart Yertayev, who is said to have a controlling role in Qazaq Banki. Authorities in Kazakhstan are seeking his extradition over suspicions that he siphoned $80 million from that bank. The Russian General Prosecutor’s Office has said it will extradite Yertayev, but the transfer has yet to take place.