MOSCOW, August 1 (RIA Novosti) - Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former banker from Kazakhstan and an opponent of Kazakh authorities, has been arrested in the south of France, media quoted his family’s lawyer as saying.
The lawyer, who asked not to be named, told the Financial Times that French special forces detained Ablyazov near Cannes on Wednesday and that Russia had requested his extradition.
An official in France’s judicial police in Marseille confirmed to the newspaper that Ablyazov was arrested Wednesday afternoon in the village of Mouans-Sartoux. Unlike the lawyer, the official said police had been guided by Ukraine’s extradition request.
A former energy minister in Kazakhstan, Ablyazov fled his country in 2009 after Kazakh prosecutors accused him of money laundering and fraud, issuing a warrant for his arrest. He went to Britain where he was granted political asylum in 2011.
Ablyazov’s charges in Kazakhstan are related to the collapse of his former BTA bank, money laundering and involvement in a criminal group.
The ex-minister who stopped supporting President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s government, Ablyazov denies the charges and claims legal action against him is politically motivated.
He has been on an international wanted list in Russia on charges of embezzlement related to his former bank’s operations in the country.
The ex-banker was sentenced by a London High Court judge in February 2012 to 22 months in prison for contempt of court. He fled the UK shortly after the ruling.
BTA Bank filed a series of lawsuits against Ablyazov in the UK High Court shortly after his arrival in London as a part of its restructuring agreement with creditors to recover $5 billion assets allegedly misappropriated by Ablyazov during his tenure at BTA Bank between 2005 and 2009.
The court has already approved the seizure of billions of dollars worth of his assets.
BTA bank was the biggest lender in Kazakhstan before it defaulted on $12 billion of debt and was taken over by the government in 2009.