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Fate of Kazakh fugitive Mukhtar Ablyazov set to be point of contention at Macron-Tokayev bilateral

French newspaper Le Figaro reports that Ablyazov, who has been convicted in absentia in Kazakhstan for embezzling $7 billion from a bank, will be on the agenda at a bilateral meeting between the two presidents.

President Tokayev arrived at the Elysee Palace on November 28th. The ongoing war in Ukraine and Kazakhstan’s role as a key oil and gas trade partner were reportedly on the agenda for discussion between the two leaders.

Le Figaro reported that the case of Ablyazov, who is a political refugee in France but faces a lengthy prison sentence in his homeland, will also be negotiated. Ablyazov fled Kazakhstan in 2009 accused of using more than 600 shell companies to squirrel away billions of dollars belonging to BTA Bank.

He claimed that the fraud allegations levelled against him had been concocted after he fell out with the country’s rulers. While in London he lived with his wife and four children in luxurious Carlton House, in the Bishops Avenue area of north London.

In 2011, he was granted asylum by the UK Home Office amid claims that he had been the target of assassination attempts.

BTA Bank then took its case to the UK High Court, where Ablyazov was accused of “fraud and embezzlement on an almost unprecedented scale”. BTA claimed Ablyazov used his position to steal billions of dollars by making uncommercial loans with offshore companies under his control.

In February 2012, Mr Justice Teare ruled that Ablyazov had committed serious and repeated breaches and sentenced him in absentia to 22 months in prison for contempt. Ablyazov was described by the judge as lying on oath in a “remarkable and brazen” manner.

A second judge, Lord Justice Kay, added: “It is difficult to imagine a party to commercial litigation who has acted with more cynicism, opportunism and deviousness towards court orders than Mr Ablyazov.”

But Ablyazov was not in court to hear the verdict because he had fled the UK to France on a two days earlier. The UK issued an arrest warrant for Ablyazov in February 2012. He disappeared for more than a year before he was tracked down to a luxury villa on the Côte d’Azur.

Over the following years his British property empire was sold off, including the 100-acre Oaklands Park in Surrey, which he had claimed not to own. The £25 million estate featured an indoor pool, a polo pitch and four further cottages.

Since then, Ablyazov’s case has been the subject of legal ping-pong in the French courts. In 2015, then prime minister Mauel Valls signed off his extradition only for France’s Asylum Court to overrule.

Most recently, France’s Court of Appeal rejected an Asylum Court decision to continue to allow Ablyazov to stay. The Asylum is expected to decide on Ablyazov’s fate in the coming months.

David Lintott is a freelance journalist, covering culture, sport and society. He hails from the decaying seaside town of Eastbourne, which he considers the source of his world-weariness.