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French court OKs Ablyazov extradition, likely to Russia

Former opposition politician accused of stealing billions

09 January, 12:35
French court OKs Ablyazov extradition, likely to Russia (ANSA) - Paris, January 9 - A French appeals court on Thursday approved the extradition, likely to Russia, of former Kazakh tycoon and political dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov.

The Court of Appeal of Aix-en-Provence said he could be extradited to either Russia or Ukraine, but Russia should have priority.

Ablyazov is accused of stealing billions of dollars from the Kazakh BTA Bank, which also operates in Russia and Ukraine.

He was arrested on the French Riviera in July and denies the allegations. His lawyer said he would appeal the extradition order.

In the complex case, his wife Alma Shalabayeva recently returned to Italy, seven months after she and her young daughter had been deported in a controversial operation.

Shalabayeva and her young child Alua were deported on a private jet to Kazakhstan after they were seized in May in a raid on a villa in Rome by Italian police following pressure from Kazakh officials, causing a major international scandal.

Italy repealed her expulsion order after it emerged Shalabayeva had the legal right to reside here. Shalabayeva has since said that she had been afraid her young daughter might be killed during their time back in Kazakhstan.

Ablyazov, a former energy minister, was arrested in France on July 31 at his sister's house near Cannes.

He had initially fled to the UK in 2011, where he obtained political asylum, but was labeled a fugitive after he failed to attend hearings in an embezzlement case against him involving the BTA Bank he once ran.

He was reportedly fined 400 million dollars in damages.

Ablyazov has denied all charges against him, which he claims are aimed at removing him as a political rival to authoritarian Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.