March 26, 2018 / 6:08 PM / in 10 months

UPDATE 1-U.S. court ruling could pave way for freeze of Kazakh assets

(Adds comment from Stati)

ALMATY, March 26 (Reuters) - A court in the United States has ruled in favour of a Moldovan businessman seeking to enforce a $520 million arbitration award against Kazakhstan, a move that may pave way for the freezing of Kazakh assets in the United States.

The businessman, Anatolie Stati, has already had a number of court rulings in his favour in Europe in the case, which has led to the freezing of around $28 billion in Kazakh government and sovereign funds’ assets in several European countries.

The U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued its ruling in favour of Stati on March 23, Stati’s press office said in a statement on Monday. The court has also published the judge’s opinion on its website.

“With the entry of the U.S. judgment, the Stati Parties will be entitled to enforce that judgment, including by the attachment and seizure of Kazakhstan’s property located in the USA,” Stati’s press office said in an email.

“It will be entitled to take these steps even if Kazakhstan appeals the March 23 judgment, unless Kazakhstan posts security for the judgment,” Stati’s press office said.

During the enforcement stage of the case, the Stati Parties will be also entitled to compile a full list of Kazakh assets around the world from both Kazakhstan and third parties, the Stati press office said.

Stati, his son Gabriel and two family-controlled companies have been involved in legal battles with the Kazakh government of President Nursultan Nazarbayev for several years.

They invested in Kazakhstan’s oil and gas industry and have alleged that they were subjected to harassment from the state aimed at forcing them to sell their investments cheaply. They and two of their companies won an arbitration award of around $500 million in Sweden against the government.

Kazakhstan denies the allegations, says the arbitration was won through fraud, and has countersued in several countries.

Kazakhstan’s central bank, which manages a sovereign fund invested in U.S. securities, did not immediately reply to a request for comment on the court ruling on Monday. (Reporting by Olzhas Auyezov. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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