A fugitive Kazakh oligarch and dissident, who was granted political asylum in the UK before fleeing Britain to avoid a prison sentence, has accused Kazakhstan‘s president Nursultan Nazarbayev of kidnapping his wife and six-year-old child after they were deported back to central Asia from Italy last week.
Mukhtar Ablyazov, 50, one of the president’s most prominent political opponents, said in a statement on his Facebook page: Nazarbayez “has now switched from political repression to outright terrorist tactics of taking hostages.
“The kidnapping of my family is a demonstration of the vile and despicable nature of Nazarbayev’s regime, which has failed to destroy me as a political opponent and has instead kidnapped my wife and six year old daughter.”
The former banker added that his wife Alma and daughter Alua had been detained by Italian authorities on Wednesday and were put on a private jet to the Kazakh capital of Astana on Friday. They are now thought to be staying with relatives.
Neither the Kazakhstan or Italian embassies in London returned calls seeking comment on the incident. Reuters, however, reported Kazakhstan’s official news agency Kazinform as saying the Italian authorities had acted because Ablyazov’s wife had been living in Italy illegally. The Italian news agency Ansa said she had been found to have a false passport issued by the Central African Republic in the name of Ayan Alma.
Madiyar Ablyazov, the tycoon’s son, told the Guardian it was untrue that his mother had a false African passport and that she had legitimate Latvian documents. He added that he did not know of his father’s whereabouts.
The deportation is the latest in an extraordinary saga involving the former banker and politician, who is being pursued by his former bank, BTA, in London’s high court over allegations that he embezzled $5bn (£3.3bn).
The proceedings took an unusual turn in February 2012 when Ablyazov fled Britain on a coach departing London’s Victoria station for France, after being sentenced to 22 months in prison for contempt of court for lying about his assets. A judge in the case had also previously told Ablyazov that he could not be trusted not to dissipate his assets, which the court had frozen.
BTA bank was declared insolvent in 2009 and was nationalised, after defaulting on $12bn of debt owed to the likes of Royal Bank of Scotland and Barclays. Last month, receivers in London began the process of selling two of Ablyazov’s luxury properties, a £17m mansion in Hampstead, north London and a 100-acre, £18m estate near Windsor called Oakland Park.
Before fleeing, Ablyazov had lived in Britain since BTA’s nationalisation – a move which he insisted was forced upon him because he was a leading figure in the Kazakhstan opposition. He also said he was previously imprisoned for political reasons.
Those claims were given credence in July 2011, when Ablyazov won an application for political asylum in Britain after arguing he faced persecution should he return to Kazakhstan. He denies the embezzlement allegations, insisting they too are politically motivated.