Kazakh oligarch Ablyazov's brother-in-law sentenced to UK jail

LONDON Thu Nov 21, 2013 5:20pm GMT

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LONDON (Reuters) - A second brother-in-law of Mukhtar Ablyazov, a Kazakh oligarch held in France and awaiting extradition on fraud charges, been sentenced to jail in Britain for contempt of court.

Kazakh bank BTA, which started legal proceedings against its former chairman Ablyazov and his associates in London in 2009, says it wants to break up a network he used to hide and disperse billions of dollars of the bank's assets.

Ablyazov denies charges he says are politically motivated.

On Thursday, the High Court in London sentenced his brother-in-law Salim Shalabayev to 22 months in jail in absentia for consistently failing to comply with court orders.

BTA said it would pursue further committals.

"The bank is determined to seek redress against those who have been instrumental in the losses that it has suffered from the fraud, as well as those who are assisting in the concealment of monies or assets misappropriated from the bank," Managing Director Pavel Prosyankin said in a statement.

BTA, now controlled by Kazakhstan's powerful sovereign wealth fund, alleges Ablyazov and his lieutenants orchestrated a fraud of more than $6.0 billion which pitched the bank into insolvency and prompted its nationalisation.

Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan brought fraud charges against Ablyazov after BTA was seized by Kazakh authorities in 2009 and he fled for Britain. Russia and Ukraine have both demanded his extradition.

Ablyazov, a former Kazakh government minister who says the charges against him are designed to eliminate him as a political opponent to Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, was granted political asylum in Britain in 2011.

But after the English court demanded he serve 22 months in jail for breaching its orders, he went into hiding for 18 months before BTA investigators traced him to a villa on the French Riviera in July and he was arrested.

Salim Shalabayev, whose whereabouts are unknown to the court, is the third of Ablyazov's associates to be committed to prison for contempt. His brother Syrym Shalabayev was also found to be in contempt in 2011 in absentia.

On Thursday, Salim was found guilty of contempt in part for lying to the court about his own whereabouts and failing to provide documents and information that centre on an untraced $22.9 million transfer.

A third man BTA says is linked to Ablyazov, Briton Paul Kythreotis, has also been found guilty of contempt in the UK and Cyprus. He served a three-month prison sentence in Cyprus.

(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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