Why Bulat Utemuratov sells his assets in Kazakhstan?

Bulat Utemuratov is con­sol­i­dat­ing liq­uid­i­ty. He cer­tain­ly sells as many assets as he can in antic­i­pa­tion of some major events. It may be a win­ning strat­e­gy in Kazakhstan’s stormy polit­i­cal waters. His obvi­ous choice is to move as much as he can abroad and hope for the best. Her comes a com­pli­ca­tion: every­body knows that besides his own mon­ey Bulat Utemuratov saves the wealth of Nazarbayev’s clan.

Bulat Utemuratov, a man of hum­ble ori­gins, served the regime well. He man­aged to cre­ate a com­pli­cat­ed sys­tem of bribes and legal­ize the wealth of the rul­ing dynasty in form of real­ty projects, hotel chain and hun­dreds of law-abid­ing com­pa­nies across the world. He has a lot to care for. Kazakhstan is chang­ing and his posi­tion as a ex-politi­cian and oli­garch is no more secure in his own coun­try. There are rumours that his empire may be threat­ened not only by local com­peti­tors but inter­na­tion­al law too. Being an ex-chief of pres­i­den­tial admin­is­tra­tion means that Bulat Utemuratov falls in cat­e­go­ry of polit­i­cal­ly exposed per­son. Thus his activ­i­ty is close­ly mon­i­tored by author­i­ties in con­ti­nen­tal Europe and United Kingdom. It is exact­ly where the major­i­ty of the assets are accumulated.

Bulat Utemuratov’s weak points are asso­ci­at­ed with the deals where he was a fix­er or the mid­dle­man. In par­tic­u­lar it is Glencore affair and the sale of ATF Bank to UniCredit.

Glencore is under inves­ti­ga­tion by the US Department of Justice in rela­tion to poten­tial vio­la­tions of bribery and cor­rup­tion laws. The alle­ga­tions relate pri­mar­i­ly to Glencore’s oper­a­tions in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However, it appears that the DRC alle­ga­tions are only the tip of the ice­berg. The evi­dence pre­sent­ed in this report sug­gests that Glencore’s deal­ings in Kazakhstan are even more trou­bling than in the DRC and could expose the com­pa­ny to poten­tial­ly enor­mous lia­bil­i­ties. The deals between Glencore and Utemuratov are non­sen­si­cal, val­ue destruc­tive for investors and raise the pos­si­bil­i­ty that Glencore has been secret­ly trans­fer­ring wealth to its local fix­er in order to buy favours and influ­ence in Kazakhstan.

Bulat Utemuratov as a 90’s poster.

Glencore’s local part­ner in Kazakhstan is Bulat Utemuratov, a bil­lion­aire who has held numer­ous gov­ern­ment roles includ­ing advis­er to the President and head of the President’s admin­is­tra­tion. It has been stat­ed pub­licly, includ­ing in US Diplomatic cables, that a cor­rupt rela­tion­ship exists between Utemuratov and Kazakhstan’s President Nazarbayev. Utemuratov has been described as “con­sigliere” and “per­son­al finan­cial man­ag­er” to the ex-pres­i­dent Nazarbayev. As for now Nazarbayev stays in pow­er and is pro­claimed a hon­orary leader of the nation. But it may change very soon.

The US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) states that pay­ments (deemed to be any­thing of val­ue) intend­ed to induce or influ­ence a for­eign offi­cial is a vio­la­tion of the law. The UK Bribery Act is broad­er in scope and includes all bribery, includ­ing to pri­vate cit­i­zens. Bulat Utemuratov can be tar­get­ed by both acts and per­se­cut­ed or sanc­tioned depend­ing on fur­ther devel­op­ment of the case.

Bulat Utemuratov involve­ment with the sale of the own ATF Bank to Italian bank­ing group Unicredit seems to be less trou­ble­some, but not flaw­less. The fac­tu­al loss of bil­lions in cache by the expe­ri­enced European bankers is suspicious.

Unicredit tried to expand into Central Asia. They choose to acquire ATF Bank from Bulat Utemuratov.

UniCredit acqui­si­tion of ATF Bank went ter­ri­bly wrong. UniCredit lost bil­lions sup­port­ing the ail­ing bank while try­ing to keep it afloat. Italians writ off £1 bil­lion in non-per­form­ing loans. Few years lat­er the bank was sold for a frac­tion of ini­tial price to the local Kazakhstan busi­ness­man Galymzhan Esenov. And sud­den­ly the bank has got all his glo­ry back in no time.

Were the Austrian-Italian gross­ly incom­pe­tent to buy the dum­my bank for near­ly £2 bil­lions? Were they so bla­tant­ly inca­pable to man­age the bank? Were the local cor­rup­tion to blame? Or the 2007 Great Recession was a lead­ing fac­tor for the ATF demise under the Italian rule?

Bulat Utemuratov invest­ed in real estate projects in Kazakhstan and Europe.

There are some sol­id grounds for more intrigu­ing assump­tions. Judging from the over­all rep­u­ta­tion of Italian bank and its involve­ment in a series of finan­cial affairs it is quite tempt­ing to asume that the whole tran­si­tion was pre­med­i­tat­ed by Bulat Utemuratov and his part­ners. As a result of the deal cir­ca £2 bil­lions were legal­ly trans­ferred to Europe and the Kazakhstani regime had its finan­cial secu­ri­ty great­ly improved.

Bulat Utemuratov may feel well-estab­lished and secure on the West as well as in Kazakhstan but it may change in one minute. There are lot of peo­ple who wait for this minute eagerly.

Original source: TALK FINANCE