Kazakhstan: Prosecutor demands life sentence for ex-banker Ablyazov

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ASTANA (TCA) — A Kazakh prosecutor has demanded a life sentence for former banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, who is accused of organizing the murder of Yerzhan Tatishev, the chief of BankTuranAlem (BTA), in 2004, RFE/RL reports.

Ablyazov, a former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA bank who lives abroad, is a prominent opponent of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. He is wanted by Kazakhstan, Russia, and Ukraine on suspicion of embezzling some $5 billion.

A jailed Kazakh businessman, Muratkhan Toqmadi, was sentenced by a Kazakh court in March to 10 1/2 years in prison for the killing of Tatishev.

Toqmadi pleaded guilty to murdering Tatishev on a hunting trip in 2004, but he said he killed the banker at the behest of Ablyazov.

After Tatishev’s death, which was ruled an accident at the time, Ablyazov became the bank’s chief.

Ablyazov has been living abroad since 2009.

He denies the embezzlement charges, saying they are politically motivated, and has called allegations that he ordered Tatishev’s killing a “lie.”

The court in Taraz, in Kazakhstan’s Zhambul region, will pronounce the sentence on Ablyazov on November 27.

Several politicians and activists have fled Kazakhstan in recent years, fearing for their safety or anticipating politically motivated prosecution.

Opponents and rights groups say that Nazarbayev, who has held power in the Central Asian nation since before the 1991 Soviet breakup, has taken systematic steps to suppress dissent and sideline potential opponents.

Sergey Kwan

TCA