Nurzhan Subkhanberdin's estate - on the Cote d'Azur and the size of the Vatican

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Kazakhstani bil­lion­aires are buy­ing up the most expen­sive real estate on the French Riviera — about a year ago, we already pub­lished a lon­gread about this. This time we will tell you about the pos­ses­sions of anoth­er mem­ber of the Kazakhstani Forbes list, though the for­mer, Nurzhan Subkhanberdin. The ex-co-own­er of Kazkommertsbank got rich on off­shore schemes, which cost the Kazakh bud­get almost $ 9 bil­lion. Subkhanberdin turned out to be the own­er of an estate on the Mediterranean coast with an area of ​​sev­er­al hectares and worth tens of mil­lions of euros.

Owners of Meridian Capital Ltd. OCCRP Infographic

Who is Nurzhan Subkhanberdin

In 2017, a scan­dal erupt­ed in Kazakhstan. The German news­pa­per Süddeutsche Zeitung obtained 6.8 mil­lion con­fi­den­tial doc­u­ments from the Bermuda law firm Appleby. They shared this data with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) and the Organized Crime and Corruption Research Center (OCCRP). The doc­u­ments con­tained mas­sive amounts of data asso­ci­at­ed with many off­shore firms and revealed the struc­tures, trans­ac­tions and oth­er oper­a­tions of many hold­ing com­pa­nies around the world that tried to hide their activ­i­ties in spe­cif­ic jurisdictions.

Thus, Kazakhstanis learned that the num­ber of real ben­e­fi­cia­ries of Meridian Capital is not lim­it­ed to only two par­tic­i­pants in the Kazakh Forbes list, Askar Alshinbaev and Yevgeny Feld (both appeared only twice in the mag­a­zine’s rat­ing and data on them has not been pub­lished for the last 6 years). In fact, the list of the com­pa­ny’s share­hold­ers was much broader.

Among them was Sauat Mynbayev, a major Kazakhstani offi­cial who held min­is­te­r­i­al posts and was at that time in charge of the nation­al com­pa­ny KazMunayGas . In January of this year, he, already the head of anoth­er nation­al com­pa­ny, Kazakhstan Temir Zholy (KTZh), was hos­pi­tal­ized with a severe spinal injury. The press ser­vice of the rail­way monop­oly report­ed that he was injured while play­ing sports. Later , infor­ma­tion appeared on social net­works that Mynbayev’s injuries could be the result of a cor­po­rate con­flict. In April, he final­ly left the chair of the head of KTZ.

The ben­e­fi­cia­ries of Meridian Capital were also the chair­man of the board of Kazkommertsbank Nina Zhusupova and the head of the board of direc­tors of the same bank Nurzhan Subkhanberdin . In addi­tion, Subkhanberdin owned (direct­ly and through the Central Asian Investment Company JSC, in which Zhusupova owned 13%) a large block of shares in this bank. In 2015, his share was 37% in the share cap­i­tal of Kazkom, but by 2017 he almost com­plete­ly got rid of it, sell­ing the stake to Kenes Rakishev . Less than a year after the pub­lished jour­nal­is­tic inves­ti­ga­tion, the coun­try’s sec­ond largest bank by assets came under the con­trol of the largest “People’s Bank” Timur and Dinara Kulibayev .

Among the share­hold­ers of Meridian Capital, one can also notice a cer­tain Azat Abishev , prob­a­bly a rel­a­tive of Subkhanberdin’s wife Zhanar Abisheva .

Kazkomovtsy owned the largest stake in Meridian Capital. According to doc­u­ments received by jour­nal­ists, it is clear that it was through this bank, using a chain of off­shore com­pa­nies, that the Meridian group financed many of its projects.

The inter­ests of the group, which posi­tioned itself as a ven­ture fund, extend­ed to many of the hold­ing’s projects in the field of min­ing, devel­op­ment and logis­tics busi­ness ( here you can read how they man­aged to build an entire trans­port empire in Kazakhstan), etc.

The group oper­at­ed not only in Kazakhstan, but also in neigh­bor­ing Russia, as well as in North America, Asia, Europe and Australia. Almost uncon­trolled access to “cheap” mon­ey and Mynbayev’s lob­by­ing capa­bil­i­ties ensured rapid growth for the hold­ing. At the same time, the authors of the inves­ti­ga­tion note that unsuc­cess­ful projects were sim­ply writ­ten off to the bal­ance sheet of Kazkomertsbank — only after the leak from Bermuda it became clear that many firms to which the bank “for­gave” loans turned out to be asso­ci­at­ed with Meridian Capital.

Meridian Capital “net­work” scheme. data

The result was pre­dictable: the bank need­ed sev­er­al rounds of finan­cial assis­tance from the state. In 2010, the vol­ume of injec­tions of state funds reached $ 1.4 bil­lion, and a year lat­er Kazkom received anoth­er $ 7.5 bil­lion. This is slight­ly less than half of the com­bined for­tune of the 50 rich­est busi­ness­men of Kazakhstan accord­ing to Forbes in 2012 ($ 23.9 billion).

The impor­tant role of Kazkommertsbank in the activ­i­ties of Meridian Capital is also con­firmed by the fact that after the bank came under the con­trol of the Kulibayevs, the inter­est of the group mem­bers in Kazakhstan notice­ably decreased.

The Askar Alshinbaevs and Evgeny Feld still run Meridian Capital. The group’s offices are locat­ed in Hong Kong, Moscow and Amsterdam. It is dif­fi­cult to judge how suc­cess­ful their projects are.

Central Asian Investment Company JSC of Nurzhan Subkhanberdin and Nina Zhusupova has not pro­vid­ed audit reports since 2018. Judging by the last pub­lished list of affil­i­at­ed per­sons in 2019, they also includ­ed a small trad­ing com­pa­ny LLP InKo Company (Subkhanberdin 32.92% / Zhusupova 67.08%), its sub­sidiary LLP Oil Service and shares in the media ‑busi­ness — news­pa­pers Publishing House Vremya LLP (Subkhanberdin 41.8%) and Republican Gazeta Panorama LLP (Subkhanberdin 40%)

Probably, prob­lems with a reli­able source of financ­ing in the form of Kazkommertsbank forced Subkhanberdin to final­ly get rid of lux­u­ry apart­ments in the cen­ter of New York in 2019.

He col­lect­ed this asset for sev­er­al years: first he bought the first apart­ment in the Time Warner Center in 2004 for $ 8.65 mil­lion, ten years lat­er — the neigh­bor­ing one for $ 7.25 mil­lion. The total area of ​​two pent­hous­es on the 75th floor of the elite com­plex was 440 m² … The orig­i­nal sale price was announced at $ 33 mil­lion, after a few years it fell by $ 10 million.As a result, judg­ing by the city reg­is­ter of the New York Department of Finance, Subkhanberdin’s lot went for $ 20.4 million.

Screen from the reg­istry of the New York Department of Finance

Of course, this is not the only for­eign asset of Nurzhan Subkhanberdin.

Manor with an island on the French Riviera

We decid­ed to start our search for Nurzhan Subkhanberdin’s over­seas prop­er­ty in France. A sim­ple fact brought us to this coun­try — his three daugh­ters (the for­mer banker has ten chil­dren in total) are named Jeannette, Chantelle and Jacqueline. This is no acci­dent, we thought — and it was right.

A sim­ple search through the usu­al tele­phone direc­to­ry yields two address­es on Avenue Raymond Poincaré ( 316 and 653 ) in Eze, in the heart of the French Riviera, about halfway between Nice and Monaco. Checking on a map com­piled on the basis of land sur­vey­ing of the state cadas­tre tells us that these sites with land build­ings and infra­struc­ture form a huge estate with a long coastal strip of almost 1 km, its own arti­fi­cial island and a total area of ​​almost 30 thou­sand square meters. It is very close to the Vatican Square, the small­est state in the world.

About a third of the estate is occu­pied by gar­dens. There are also two man­sions there. One of them, appar­ent­ly, is for guests, the sec­ond — Villa Isoletta with an inter­est­ing his­to­ry — for the owners.

“The house of Nurzhan Subkhanberdin, founder and chair­man of the largest bank in Kazakhstan, Kazkommertsbank, reads the sig­na­ture to the work of the French pho­tog­ra­ph­er Antoine VUELA.

In 1923, the vil­la was bought by Alva Belmont, the first wife of William Vanderbilt, grand­son of Cornelius Vanderbilt, the founder of the famous fam­i­ly of American busi­ness­men. Belmont has been a fair­ly promi­nent fig­ure in the inter­na­tion­al fem­i­nist move­ment. A few years ear­li­er, her daugh­ter Consuelo, after her mar­riage to Charles Richard Churchill, 9th Duke of Marlborough, acquired anoth­er man­sion in the same place. Since then, the cousin of Alva Belmont’s son-in-law Winston Churchill has become a fre­quent guest at Villa Isoletta. After World War II, the fam­i­ly sold the vil­la, which then changed sev­er­al owners.

In addi­tion to two vil­las, the estate has sev­er­al beach­es and an arti­fi­cial island. In the 19th cen­tu­ry, an artillery bat­tery was locat­ed there to pro­tect the bay — now on the island of Subkhanberdin, con­nect­ed to the main­land by a small bridge, there is a recre­ation area and a pool with sea water.

Private island of Subkhanberdin and view of the vil­la. Drone filming

The cost of all this real estate, judg­ing by the mar­ket prices in the vicin­i­ty of Nice, can be approx­i­mate­ly esti­mat­ed at € 40 — € 50 mil­lion. How much the for­mer co-own­er of the burned-out Kazkom actu­al­ly paid for it, we will tell in the fol­low­ing publications.

Here you can watch the drone footage (from 1.5 min­utes), which gives a clear idea of ​​the site and the objects stand­ing on it. The author mis­takes her for “Villa Bono”, a famous Irish musi­cian and leader of the group U2. In fact, his man­sion is locat­ed about 400 meters west of the Subkhanberdin estate.


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