Mukhtar Ablyazov's sprawling networks in the European Parliament

Judicially cor­nered by sev­er­al coun­tries, includ­ing the United Kingdom, the United States, Ukraine and Russia, Moukhtar Abliazov still enjoys the sta­tus of polit­i­cal refugee in France. He also enjoys a lot of sup­port in the European Parliament and can count on the intense lob­by­ing car­ried out by a con­tro­ver­sial NGO, the Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF) with­in the European Parliament, where he advo­cates his cause. Investigation into the sprawl­ing net­works of Mukhtar Abliazovwrites SECRETdefense.org.

He is con­sid­ered the “crook of the cen­tu­ry” by the Kazakh gov­ern­ment, which accus­es him of hav­ing embez­zled €6 bil­lion from the cof­fers of the BTA bank, one of the main finan­cial insti­tu­tions in the coun­try, of which he was pres­i­dent. of the Board of Directors between 2005 and 2009. Sentenced — on sev­er­al counts — for finan­cial crimes in Kazakhstan, Russia, the United Kingdom, Ukraine, France and the United States

Moukhtar Ablyazov how­ev­er enjoys a lot of sup­port in the European Parliament.

Mukhtar Abliyazov involved in numer­ous finan­cial crime cases

What do Isabel Santos, Ignazio Corrao, Nieklas Nienaß or Anna Fotyga have in com­mon? All mem­bers of the European Parliament, on 8 February, 2021, they pre­sent­ed a motion for a res­o­lu­tion con­demn­ing the alleged human rights abus­es in Kazakhstan, the coun­try of ori­gin of Moukhtar Abliazov. The res­o­lu­tion is final­ly adopt­ed on 11 February, 2021 in the European Parliament and takes the form of a sym­bol­ic con­dem­na­tion of the coun­try. A small vic­to­ry for Moukhtar Abliazov, in open war, for more than ten years, with the capac­i­ty in place. The oppor­tu­ni­ty for him to strength­en his pos­ture as a polit­i­cal refugee mar­tyred by the Kazakh pow­er, which he reg­u­lar­ly claims in the European press.

In the news­pa­per Le Monde, on 6 May, he denounced the “duplic­i­ty of Paris with the regime  of Kazakhstan and con­sid­ers him­self the vic­tim of harass­ment on the part of Kazakh agents”, who would mon­i­tor him per­ma­nent­ly. If he denies or remains eva­sive on all the facts with which he is accused, the con­dem­na­tions are pil­ing up in dif­fer­ent coun­tries, how­ev­er lit­tle sus­pect­ed of hav­ing com­mon strate­gic inter­ests between them or with Kazakhstan.

In Russia, he is accused of com­mit­ting $5 bil­lion in finan­cial embez­zle­ment. In Ukraine, where the charges relate to “fic­ti­tious loans, embez­zle­ment, lack of col­lat­er­al and the cre­ation of off-shore com­pa­nies  “, the alleged finan­cial embez­zle­ment amount­ed to only “$400 mil­lion” for facts com­mit­ted at the end of the 2000s. In Great Britain, he was notably ordered in November 2012 to pay $4.5bn in dam­ages to the BTA bank. In France, if he has been indict­ed since 7 October, 2020, he still enjoys the sta­tus of polit­i­cal refugee since 29 September 2020 and the deci­sion of the National Court of Asylum (CNDA).

The European Parliament and its links with the Open Dialogue Foundation

A heavy legal lia­bil­i­ty that does not pre­vent him from count­ing sup­port in the European Parliament, through the Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF), which leads active lob­by­ing in its favor in the mys­ter­ies of the com­mu­ni­ty. Moukhtar Ablyazov some­times even appears in fam­i­ly with cer­tain MEPs. At least nine par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, sig­na­to­ries of the res­o­lu­tion, have, in recent years, par­tic­i­pat­ed in events orga­nized by the ODF or have met Mukhtar Ablyazov.

A res­o­lu­tion passed by the European Parliament, hos­tile to Kazakhstan, reveals the influ­ence of pro-Ablyazov lob­bies in the European Parliament. The res­o­lu­tion is the result of a mobi­liza­tion of MEPs, oppos­ing polit­i­cal groups, rang­ing from the con­ser­v­a­tive right to the rad­i­cal left: con­ser­v­a­tives from the European People’s Party, social democ­rats, envi­ron­men­tal­ists from the Greens / EFA or even a lib­er­al. of the Renew Groupsigned this res­o­lu­tion. Several lines of evi­dence sug­gest that it was born from the insid­i­ous influ­ence of sev­er­al rel­a­tives of Moukhtar Ablyazov, in par­tic­u­lar grouped with­in the Open Dialogue Foundation, a dis­put­ed NGO, at the heart of many sus­pi­cions of fund­ing by the intel­li­gence ser­vices. Russian, of links with mech­a­nisms of mon­ey laun­der­ing and with sev­er­al sul­phurous per­son­al­i­ties. Through events, often orga­nized in the premis­es of the European Parliament, the ODF weaves its web and broad­ens its net­work of parliamentarians.

On Sunday 21 April 2019, Times arti­cle sug­gest­ed that £1.5million had dis­ap­peared from the accounts of com­pa­nies reg­is­tered in Glasgow and Edinburgh to tran­sit to those at the head­quar­ters of the Open Dialogue Foundation, head­quar­tered in Warsaw. In November 2018, a Moldovan par­lia­men­tary inquiry high­light­ed the pos­si­bil­i­ty of close links between the ODF and Russian intel­li­gence ser­vices regard­ing activ­i­ties to desta­bi­lize the Moldovan regime. An accu­sa­tion that echoes anoth­er report, pub­lished by the Polish Chamber of Commerce , dat­ed July 2017, high­light­ing the sup­ply of mil­i­tary equip­ment to seces­sion­ist rebels in Donbass (infrared sights for snipers and bul­let­proof vests).

In addi­tion, most of the per­son­al­i­ties at the heart of the Open Dialogue Foundation’s pleas have been con­vict­ed of finan­cial crimes in their coun­try. Among them, Veaceslav Platon, Moldavian-Russian busi­ness­man, the sup­posed archi­tect of a great move­ment of remit­tances out­side Russia via mon­ey laun­der­ing, or Aslan Gagiyev, founder of The Family, a mafia group. involved in con­tract mur­ders, such as that of the may­or of Vladikavkaz.

Signatory MEPs from dif­fer­ent polit­i­cal groups in the European Parliament

Several of the par­lia­men­tar­i­ans who draft­ed the motion for a res­o­lu­tion have, at one time or anoth­er, assumed their links with senior mem­bers of the Open Dialogue Foundation, Mukthar Ablyazov him­self or mem­bers of his fam­i­ly, and even oth­ers. Kazakh per­son­al­i­ties involved in finan­cial crime cas­es. Interpersonal ties most often doc­u­ment­ed by the ODF itself, a sign that it is ful­ly claim­ing its influ­ence in the European Parliament.

Among the sig­na­to­ries of this motion are Isabel Santos, Portuguese Socialist MP, mem­ber of the Socialist and Democrat group in the European Parliament, pic­tured with Lyudmyla Kozlovska, President of the Open Dialogue Foundation. She is, for the Social Democrats Group, at the ori­gin of this res­o­lu­tion, along with two oth­er deputies, Kati Piri and Andris Ameriks.

Isabel Santos took part in a con­fer­ence of the Open Dialogue Foundation, held on October 9, 2014, on the theme of “the mis­use of Interpol” (pho­to below), one of the great fights of the ODF, because sev­er­al of the indi­vid­u­als it defends are the sub­ject of a “red notice”, pro­duced by one of the mem­ber states of Interpol.

Credit — Open Dialogue Foundation

Similar links have been iden­ti­fied for sev­er­al MEPs from the Les Verts / European Free Alliance group. Viola von Cramon-Tauhadel (right, below) was pho­tographed with Lyudmyla Kozlovska, dur­ing an event orga­nized on November 26, 2019 by the Open Dialogue Foundation and the Center for Civil Liberties (CCL). She sits next to him at an event cel­e­brat­ing Oleg Sentsov (left, below), a for­mer Russian polit­i­cal pris­on­er and Sakharov Prize recipient.

Credit — Open Dialogue Foundation

The event, as claimed by the Open Dialogue Foundation, also includ­ed in its ranks Petras Auštrevičius, a Lithuanian MP from the lib­er­al group Renew Europe (left in the pho­to below). Also close to Lyudmyla Kozlovska, he was pho­tographed with her and is one of the sig­na­to­ries of the motion for a resolution.

Credit — Open Dialogue Foundation

Close to the Greens — ALE group, the Greek deputy Niklas Nienaß was pho­tographed with Lyudmyla Kozlovska and Bota Jardemalie, also con­cerned by the courts of Kazakhstan. Again, the event was orga­nized by the ODF. Bota Jardemalie (third from right, pho­to below) was also a mem­ber of the board of direc­tors of BTA bank, where she met Moukhtar Ablyazov between 2005 and 2009, serv­ing as man­ag­ing direc­tor. An arti­cle in the Belgian news­pa­per Le Soir, dat­ed 12 August 2020, reveals that it has evad­ed a freeze of its assets by the English jus­tice by using the accounts of an off­shore company.

Credit — Open Dialogue Foundation

Ignazio Carrao, Italian MP, mem­ber of the Greens group was pic­tured with Moukhtar Ablyazov’s wife, Alma Shalabayeva (pho­to below, bot­tom left).

The deputies who signed the motion hos­tile to Kazakhstan some­times direct­ly dis­play their links with Mukhtar Ablyazov, such as Anna Fotyga, con­ser­v­a­tive and Eurosceptic MEP, mem­ber of the Polish Law and Justice par­ty. Mukhtar Ablyazov’s daugh­ter is also pic­tured, to her father’s right. Here again, Anna Fotyga is a sig­na­to­ry of the resolution.

Contested, the Open Dialog Foundation claims its lob­by­ing activ­i­ties with­in the trans­paren­cy reg­is­ter of the European Union. Its rai­son d’être is, accord­ing to the European Commission, “the orga­ni­za­tion of obser­va­tion mis­sions, includ­ing the obser­va­tion of elec­tions and the mon­i­tor­ing of the human rights sit­u­a­tion in post-Soviet coun­tries”. But it also seems to prac­tice the dis­sem­i­na­tion of “turnkey” res­o­lu­tions to cer­tain par­lia­men­tar­i­ans, a method which ques­tions the influ­ence of cer­tain NGOs, some­times con­tro­ver­sial, with­in European institutions.

By Guest con­trib­u­tor

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