Kazakh bank BTA poised to seize oligarch's assets

Tue Nov 6, 2012 12:14pm EST
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By Kirstin Ridley

LONDON (Reuters) - Mukhtar Ablyazov, a fugitive oligarch accused of embezzling more than $5 billion, was labeled "devious" and "cynical" by judges on Tuesday as his former Kazakh bank BTA prepared to pounce on his assets.

On the eve of a vast UK fraud trial, England's Court of Appeal threw out Ablyazov's attempts in absentia to overturn a 22-month jail sentence and a ruling barring him from defending himself unless he turns himself in and fully discloses his assets.

"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," said Justice Maurice Kay in a sharply-worded judgment handed down by three senior judges.

Justice Bernard Rix said: "Mr Ablyazov, emboldened perhaps by the wealth at his disposal, which enables him to travel, hide and still instruct lawyers on a prodigious scale, continues to obstruct justice with an attempt at impunity for the consequences of this litigation."

The mammoth trial of Ablyazov, a former Kazakh government minister who denies allegations he says are politically motivated - but who has vanished since the jail sentence was announced in February - is due to kick off on Wednesday.

It is scheduled to last around 14 weeks.

But as Ablyazov has told his legal team he will neither attend the trial and risk arrest nor defend his case, it is likely to be a sideshow played out by his lieutenants.

His former bank BTA, meanwhile, will prepare to seize his assets.   Continued...