France recognizes fugitive banker Ablyazov as political emigrant, refuses to extradite him to Russia
On the eve of Friday, December 9, the State Council of France has decided to annul the decree associated with the extradition of the former Head of BTA Bank Mukhtar Ablyazov to the Russian authorities.
It is to be recalled that the decree was signed by Prime Minister of France Manuel Waltz in September 2015.
The refusal of France's Highest Court says that the prosecution of Mukhtar Ablyazov in Russia is initiated for political reasons and in the interests of Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, the banker has been placed on the international wanted list for stealing $ 5 million. He was arrested 3 years ago in France, and during that time BTA-Bank managed to return the stolen assets totaling more than $ 1 billion.
It should be added that the French State Council was the last decisive link, and only its decision could prevent the impending extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov to the Russian authorities. At that, earlier, the banker's lawyers in the French courts of different instances unsuccessfully tried to prove that the Russian security forces are prosecuting the businessman by the Kazakh authorities’ behest, for which he was a member of the opposition. Moreover, they argued that if extradited banker in Russia it is likely that in the future it will be forwarded to the authorities of Kazakhstan.
On September 17, Prime Minister of France Manuel Waltz signed a decree according to which Mukhtar Ablyazov should be extradited to the Russian authorities. It is to be recalled that the banker was arrested in the French Alps in July of 2013.
Before considering the case of Mukhtar Ablyazov in the State Council of France, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer called for this body to give up the earlier decision to extradite the banker. His request was motivated by the fact that after the extradition of the businessman to Russia, it is likely that he would be sent on to Kazakhstan, and there, he can be placed in a prison that does not meet European standards, and be subjected to tortures. It should be noted that even before the final meeting of the State Council in France, the Russian Prosecutor General's Office provided the French authorities with the guarantee documents in the event of the fugitive banker’s extradition. The documentation indicated that he was not prosecuted for political reasons, and that he would not be sent to Kazakhstan. Moreover, the supervisory authority has been given a confirmation that in a predetention center in Russia Mukhtar Ablyazov will have an opportunity to be visited by the French diplomats to verify the conditions of his detention, as well as to make sure that he is not subjected to illegal investigation methods.
Nevertheless, the French State Council in the final decision sided with the representatives of the banker's protection, as well as the UN rapporteur. The decision of the State Council, which canceled the extradition decree, previously signed by the Prime Minister, said that the decision to extradite the banker has a number of violations.
The State Council has established that the Russian authorities demanded the extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov to bring him to justice for committing financial crimes, in particular for committing fraud and embezzlement of the bank's money. At the same time, according to representatives of the State Council, the extradition of the banker was actually initiated by Kazakhstan, as he is their political opponent. The decision of the State Council also pointed out that earlier the Kazakh authorities tried to get the fugitive banker with the help of Ukraine. At the same time, doing that, Kazakhstan put pressure on Ukraine and compelled the latter to initiate a criminal case against Mukhtar Ablyazov and to put him on the wanted list. Subsequently, as the request from Ukraine was not answered, the Kazakhstan authorities began to act through Russia, believes the State Council of France.
It is to be added that, according to the French Constitution, the country has the right to refuse to extradite a foreigner to another country if his prosecution is politically motivated. Since the French State Council decided that the prosecution of the fugitive banker is politically motivated, his extradition was refused. According to the State Council, Mukhtar Ablyazov is one of the opposition leaders in Kazakhstan.
In addition, according to representatives of the French State Council, in the case of the banker’s extradition to the Russian authorities, his position could rapidly deteriorate. After considering all the details of the case in France, the State Council decided to recognize Mukhtar Ablyazov as a political emigrant, who is in danger both at home and in Russia. As a result, the decree on his extradition was revoked and declared illegal.
According to the lawyer of BTA-Bank Roman Marchenko, initially Mukhtar Ablyazov’s extradition was sought by three countries: Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. Since the Kazakh authorities have no agreement with France for the extradition of the banker, the country was denied. Later, as a result of the consideration of the case in the Court of Appeal of Lyon and the Supreme French Court, it was decided to give preference to the extradition request from the Russian authorities, since it is in Russia Mukhtar Ablyazov caused damage that is much more important than the one he caused to Ukraine.
At that, the lawyer added that the refusal decision made by the State Council of France cannot be appealed. Nevertheless, he believes that after that, perhaps, a request from the Ukrainian authorities would get a move.
It should also be added that in the near future in France, the court will make a decision to change the preventive measure against Mukhtar Ablyazov, and, most likely, the banker will be released from custody on bail. However, the French Prime Minister can decide to extradite the banker to the Ukrainian authorities before the trial. "The question is, what will happen faster," - said the defender.