Emails raise fresh questions about mining group’s Kazakh ties

Exchanges indi­cate staff at list­ed group were asked to make hol­i­day arrange­ments for top offi­cials in London and Paris

Tom Burgis, The Financial Times, December 14, 2020,

Fresh evi­dence has emerged indi­cat­ing staff at a London-list­ed min­ing com­pa­ny made per­son­al hol­i­day arrange­ments for the rulers of Kazakhstan, where it owns lucra­tive cop­per rights.

In September, the Financial Times report­ed that in 2011 Kazakhmys organ­ised for the fam­i­ly of Kazakhstan’s then prime min­is­ter Karim Massimov to fly to France by pri­vate jet, vis­it Disneyland Paris and stay at the George V hotel, trig­ger­ing scruti­ny under the UK’s anti-bribery law. The Serious Fraud Office said it was “aware of the alle­ga­tions” but declined to com­ment further

Now an email exchange seen by the FT reveals that two years lat­er the same Kazakh offi­cial sent instruc­tions to the company’s boss regard­ing a trip to London. By then, Mr Massimov had become chief of staff to Kazakh dic­ta­tor Nursultan Nazarbayev

The new ques­tions these emails raise about whether the com­pa­ny — which has since been renamed Kaz Minerals — broke UK anti-cor­rup­tion laws come as its bil­lion­aire founder, Vladimir Kim, leads a £3bn bid to take it pri­vate again 15 years after its London listing. 

In November 2013, an aide to Mr Massimov wrote to Eduard Ogay, the exec­u­tive direc­tor at Kazakhmys who had in 2011 tak­en instruc­tions on the Paris trip. This time, the aide explained, the Massimovs want­ed to go to London. He told Mr Ogay to arrange a hotel, trans­port and “cul­tur­al pro­gramme” for the fam­i­ly. Both used per­son­al email address­es in the exchange of mes­sages, which were part of a large online leak in 2014 but have only now come to light. 

One of the emails sug­gests Mr Massimov may have called off the London trip. But, as with the mes­sages dis­cussing the 2011 hol­i­day, the exchange sug­gests such instruc­tions from a top Kazakh offi­cial to the head of a UK pub­lic com­pa­ny were routine. 

The com­pa­ny said it had inves­ti­gat­ed the 2011 episode — a trip worth some $100,000 — and “found no evi­dence of pay­ment by the com­pa­ny (or by any of its employ­ees)” for the hol­i­day, but did not estab­lish who did pay for it. 

On the 2013 exchange, the com­pa­ny said: “We have not seen any of the pri­vate email cor­re­spon­dence in ques­tion and have no evi­dence of com­pa­ny time or resources being involved.” 

The FT has also seen a £30,000 bill for a 2006 stay by Mr Nazarbayev, pres­i­dent of Kazakhstan at the time, at the Lanesborough hotel on Hyde Park Corner in London that was sent to the com­pa­ny. The com­pa­ny said it “made a legit­i­mate con­tri­bu­tion to an offi­cial pres­i­den­tial vis­it to the UK in 2006, which includ­ed a vis­it to Kazakhmys’ offices in London”. 

Tom Mayne, a Kazakhstan expert who uncov­ered the 2006 Lanesborough bill, said that in the ex-Soviet repub­lic some busi­ness­es — known as “pock­et com­pa­nies” — were “required to pay for what­ev­er top gov­ern­ment offi­cials require”. He said the hol­i­day instruc­tions “raise ques­tions about what was known by the company’s British man­agers and audi­tors, and how far the com­pa­ny went in try­ing to please Kazakh leaders”.

The Financial Times

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