The latest twist in the case of Mukhtar Ablyazov: French court orders fugitive millionaire tycoon to be extradited to Russia

The former Kazakh bank chairman was once one of the world's richest men, is now the subject of the biggest UK fraud case in history

A millionaire alleged fraudster on the run, high politics, glamorous locations and beautiful women: the story of Mukhtar Ablyazov's life hardly needs turning into a John Grisham novel.

Today the story of the billionaire former minister of Kazakhstan, subject of the biggest UK fraud case in history, took another dramatic plot twist as a court near his bolthole villa in the South of France ordered his extradition to face criminal fraud charges in Russia.

Mr Ablyazov was one of the world's richest men when he was chairman of the Kazakh bank, BTA. With the country riding high on its new-found oil wealth, and the tycoon close to the country's dictatorial leadership, the noughties were good for him and his glamorous wife Alma Shalabeyeva.

But in 2009, multi-billion dollar black holes were found in BTA's accounts. Mr Ablyazov was accused of embezzlement on a vast scale - allegations he strenuously denies. The bank was nationalised, with severe losses for lenders around the world. Sharing about $500m of those losses are thought to have been Britain's RBS, Barclays, Standard Chartered and HSBC.

Mr Ablyazov fled to the UK and successfully claimed asylum. To this day, the former energy and trade minister of Kazakhstan argues that he has done nothing wrong and that he is being victimised by the Kazakh leadership for his anti-government views, citing his formation of an opposition party to the dictatorial president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

However, BTA, now owned by the Kazakh state investment fund, pursued him in the London High Court, demanding $6bn back and claiming he had funnelled embezzled money into buying a host of swanky properties and investments in the UK and around the world. In Britain, those included Carlton House, a mansion in London's famous billionaire's row, The Bishop's Avenue. Other properties included an estate in Surrey's Oakland Park. Carlton House, with its 10 person Turkish bath, is now up for sale by estate agent-to the stars Trevor Abrahmson at £15.8m, having been seized by the receivers on behalf of BTA.

During the court hearings, BTA successfully argued that he was continuing to move his money around despite being ordered not to, and a judge found him guilty of contempt of court, sentencing him in February 2012 to 22 months imprisonment.

By then, however, he had left the UK. After a manhunt across Europe lasting nearly a year and a half, private investigators acting on behalf of BTA finally got a break. Tailing a friend of the fugitive, they were led to a villa near Cannes. They tipped off the local police and he was arrested in a dramatic raid by special forces reportedly using armoured vehicles and a plane.

Extradition warrants from Russia and Ukraine, where BTA also had assets, were filed.

France had a dilemma. The vocal Alma and their photogenic, and equally vocal, daughter Madina argued that Mr Ablyazov was a political prisoner who would, if sent to Moscow or Kiev, be sent to certain death in Kazakhstan.

But today, reputedly after assurances this would not be the case, the court in Aix-en-Provence accepted both requests, preferring the claim of Russia, because the scale of the alleged embezzlement there, at $5 billion, is far higher than the $400 million alleged by Ukraine. Mr Ablyazov's legal team said they would appeal, while his wife Alma said: "Extraditing him means condemning him to death."

Alma herself was controversially deported from Italy last year with her daughter Alua after police hunting Mr Ablayazov found them travelling on fake Central African Republic passports. Alma and Madina claim that was a kidnapping, not a deportation, and say the CAR passports were genuine.

BTA bank, meanwhile, claims it has so far won judgements on five of its 11 claims against Mr Ablayazov, totalling $4.1bn. But, according to reports not denied by BTA, it has only retrieved a few hundreds of millions of dollars.

The bank said it hoped the extradition would make it easier for it to retrieve more.

With an appeal process now in train, in the manner of the best thrillers, this intriguing thriller is to be continued.

News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling is releasing a new Harry Potter story about Dolores Umbridge
arts + entsJK Rowling to publish new story set in wizard's world for Halloween
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites those Star Wars rumours
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
people

Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?

Arts and Entertainment
On The Apprentice, “serious” left the room many moons ago and yet still we watch
tv

Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent

Life and Style
tech

Voices
Funds raised from the sale of poppies help the members of the armed forces with financial difficulties
voicesLindsey German: The best way of protecting soldiers is to stop sending them into conflicts
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from David Ayer's 'Fury'
film

"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
football

Striker's four-month ban for biting an opponent expires on Friday

News
news
News
peopleFox presenter gives her less than favourable view of women in politics
News
George Clooney and Amal Alamuddin married in Venice yesterday
peopleAmal and George Clooney 'planning third celebration in England'
Property
One bedroom terraced house for sale, Richmond Avenue, Islington, London N1. On with Winkworths for £275,000.
property
Sport
Erik Lamela celebrates his goal
football

Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here

News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Data Analyst/Planning and Performance – Surrey – Up to £35k

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

English Teacher

£24000 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The Job:Te...

French Teacher for new post starting November 2014

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: the job ? We are looking for...

English Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Secondary English Teacher Requir...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker