Rakhat Aliyev on Malta’s hot grounds: die and let live – or a Gonzy scheme?

BY CHARLES VAN DER LEEUW, specially for Better.kz

Wherever Kazakhstan’s “prodigal son-in-law” now rather son-outside-the-law Rakhat Aliyev sets foot, scandals tend to shake up local political and judicial circles. But a new trend in the string of whirlpools making juicy headlines from Austria to Malta is a cautious but steady-looking trend to shift from cloak-and-dagger crimes, committed in Almaty and Beirut alike, are attempts to try and nail him over white-collar crimes, namely embezzling state funds and money from Kazakhstan’s banking corporation Nurbank during times Aliyev held high state posts and was in control of the said bank. Hundreds of millions of greenbacks, if not billions, must have been taken away and subsequently laundered in particular in Austria, Germany, Switzerland and, according to the latest information, Malta. On the tiny Mediterranean island, however, authorities appear to be most reluctant to get the case under investigation and even publicly left it to the public rather than police to gather information which could lead to judicial consequences for the culprit – thereby leaving the latter with comfortable holes in the net that should already surround him to escape once more, leaving widows in grief, and others in discomfort.

Lawrence_Gonzi“The green party spokesperson on EU and international affairs Arnold Cassola applied to the Prime-Minister asking Gonzi about the measures taken by the authorities on allegations against Aliyev who is accused of crimes against humanity and of using Malta as a base for money laundering,” Tengrinews [tengrinews.kz] reported on January 17, quoting Malta Today [www.maltatoday.com.mt]. “The green party spokesperson on EU and international affairs Arnold Cassola applied to the Prime-Minister asking Gonzi about the measures taken by the authorities on allegations against Aliyev who is accused of crimes against humanity and of using Malta as a base for money laundering. In his reply, Gonzi invited everyone who has proof of illegal behavior of Aliyeva to present it to the police. Prime-Minister also reminded that Aliyev was married to a EU citizen and has the right for free movement at the territory of UE countries. He added that, having consulted the Attorney General, he made a decision that Malta had no jurisdiction to investigate the allegations of torture and crimes against humanity that Aliyev is accused of. «This position is currently being challenged in the court of magistrates,» Gonzi said. Gonzi also said that the local police has to investigate into the allegations of money laundering by the former diplomat. Malta's financial intelligence analysis unit, presided over by the Attorney General, has already received information of the money laundering from Austrian lawyers representing the widows of two murdered top managers of Nurbank (Aliyev was found guilty of their murders in Kazakhstan). Former Kazakhstan Prime-Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin and two of his bodyguards are insisting that an investigation should be held by Maltese law-enforcement authorities on the allegations against Aliyev. In particular, Kazhegeldin's bodyguards state that they were tortured in a bid to force a confession on Aliyev's order, who served as the chairman of Kazakhstan National Security Commission back in 2000. In the beginning of last November Kazhegeldin applied to Maltese court with a complaint against nonfeasance of the local police that refused to investigate allegations against Rakhat Aliyev. The hearings on this case are still in process.”
While directing the case in the direction of white-collar crime while keeping the cloak-and-dagger dimensions of the affair under scope, insistence by Maltese officials on trying to spread confisuon also persists. “Cassola told Gonzi in his letter that Aliyev was alleged by his accusers of using Malta as a base for money laundering,” Malta Today wrote on January 14. “In his reply, Gonzi told Cassola that Aliyev was married to an EU citizen and enjoyed free movement across EU member states. He also added that, after consulting with the Attorney General, that Malta did not have any jurisdiction to investigate the allegations of torture and crimes against humanity Aliyev is accused of. «This position is currently being challenged in a court of magistrates,» Gonzi said, referring to an action brought by Kazhageldin in the Maltese courts. Gonzi also told Cassola that all allegations of money-laundering against Aliyev should be taken to the police for investigation. Malta's financial intelligence analysis unit, which is presided by the Attorney General, has already received information on money-laundering from Austrian lawyers representing the widows of the murdered Nurbank bankers.”

Protagonist to expose the Maltese authorities to their alleged attempts to escape their responsibilities has proven to be no one less than Akezhan Kazhegeldin, himself accused in Kazakhstan on numerous occasions to have been involved in squandering state funds – not forgetting his own pockets and those of his associates. Today, Kazhegeldin seems to have turned patriot once more. His ready-at-hand case is one brought in by two of his bodyguards claiming to have been tortured by Aliyev at the time the latter headed the National Security Committee. “Former Kazakh prime minister says police chief ignored complaints against Aliyev,” Malta Today reported. “In final submissions to court, former Kazah prime minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin demands court to order Commissioner of Police to investigate political rival and former Kazakh diplomat Rakhat Aliyev,” Malta Today wrote in an earlier report published on January 4. “The former prime minister of Kazakhstan and his two bodyguards have presented their final submissions to the Maltese court, which has to decide on whether the Maltese police must investigate former diplomat Rakhat Aliyev. […] Kazhegeldin claimed that the former deputy head of the Kazakh secrete service, and once son-in-law to Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev, attempted to force a confession from his bodyguards that the prime minister was planning a coup. Aliyev has been living in Malta since 2010 after investigations were started by Viennese prosecutors into allegations that he commissioned the murder of two bankers in Kazakhstan. As former ambassador to the OSCE in Vienna, Aliyev was stripped of his diplomatic immunity in 2008 when a Kazakh court sentenced him to 20 years in absentia for the murders, and was forced to divorce Nazarbayev's daughter. But Kazhegeldin and his two bodyguards claim the Commissionerof Police in Malta has ignored three complaints they filed against Rakhat Aliyev throughout 2012, so that he is investigated for the crimes he committed against them. Kazhegeldin submitted that the crimes Aliyev is accused of are laid down both in the Maltese criminal code and also in the Statute of the International Criminal Court, to which Malta is a signatory.”

“The police had earlier in 2012 replied to Kazhegeldin's lawyers claiming that the facts alleged ‘lacked the legal elements which constitute crimes against humanity required by Article 54 C of the Criminal Code,” the news report quoted above continues – quoting Kazhegeldin as commenting: «This argument does not hold because the evidence presented proves sufficiently that the actions of Aliyev are indeed crimes against humanity. It has to be recognised that the systematic attack committed by Aliyev is considered as a crime according to Maltese law. Taking into consideration the cumulative effect of this series of inhumane actions, the number of people who suffered, the participation of the Kazakhstan secret service (NSC), and the territorial scale in which these crimes were committed, one can see clearly that these attacks were aimed at the removal of Kazhageldin and the political party he created.» “Kazhegeldin also said that in March 2012, assistant commissioner Andrew Seychell wrote in a letter that the crimes in the complaints were not «war crimes» as listed in the criminal code, and that Aliyev could «not be said to be a permanent resident in lieu of the disposition afforded to the term in the same article,» Malta Today’s report continues. “But the former prime minister submitted that at no point did he allude to any war crimes in his complaint. «It clearly looks like the Commissioner is not giving the importance this complaint merits, because he did not even realise that the report was for crimes against humanity and not war crimes. Kazhageldin also said it was not true, as alleged by the Commissioner, that Aliyev was not a permanent resident as laid down in the Immigration Act. ‘Aliyev is married to an EU citizen and he has the right to obtain permanent residence... his status is also confirmed by foreign minister Tonio Borg in a reply to a parliamentary question. This is sufficient basis for Malta to have jurisdiction over Aliyev’.»

In how far money laundering – an offence which if proven has obviously been committed on the territories of Austria, Germany, Switzerland and now possibly Malta which means that jurisdiction automatically imposes itself on those countries’ territories, can be used to get Aliyev behind bars wherever possible should become clear in the upcoming months. Glimpses of Aliyev’s cash track have been noted before – even though the overall picture keeps showing broad gaps. One thing, however, remains certain: where blood is being ignored, cash is all the more valuated for it. As noted in previous reports, Rakhat Aliyev from 2010 on has been living under the name Shoraz, after the maiden name of his assistant Elnara Shorazova whom he married shortly after his forced separation from Dariga Nazarbayeva. His new father-in-law, Muratkhan Shorazov, was to become his new business associate — also living in Vienna, according to a report dated March 11 2011 in the Kazakh electronic news wire Nomad. By that time Shorazov’s own enterprise, known as Orman, had swallowed most of the business interests of Aliyev’s A.V. Maximus Holding, and together they had merged into a new holding called AGRC.

In February 2009, an Austrian writer and journalist by the name of Silvia Jelincic, author of the book Die nackte Elite (The naked elite) which told the true story about Vienna’s notorious sex enterprise Babylon, which until recently used to run up-market brothels for expensive exotic sex pleasures (the German word is Edelpuff) in Klagenfurt, Salzburg and Vienna, reported a shift in the business. The business’ owner, a certain Peter Bretterklieber, found an enthusiastic partner in the owner of a location on 25, Johannesgasse, also downtown Vienna but a bit away from the upper-elite neighbourhood. For a discrete-looking, well-furbished 1,700 square metre accommodation he had to pay 40,000 euro per month — hardly more than his business’ daily turnover. On paper, the property was owned by Maximus Holding AG.

Aliyev’s Maximus Holding had been founded on August 3, 2004 under the name Schwarcz & Co, with the address Schellinggasse 7, Vienna. On March 21, 2007, the name was changed into A.V. Maximus Holding AG — soon after which it started moving frequently from one address downtown the capital to the other. Its main activity was posted as “real estate property and management”. But there was more to it, for the enterprise controlled several other companies including a movie and television programme production firm called Speedy-Funk, a company called Armoreal Trading GmbH, an asset management firm called ASTA GmbH, and a non-profit foundation called Global Sugar Privatstiftung, according to an Austrian directory called BusinessABC. Through Armoreal, Aliyev controlled Germany’s Metallwerke Bender. Maximus also had a Swiss branch under the same name located in Geneva, and another offshore firm under its name on the British Virgin Islands.

Even though behind the entire conglomerate there was little more but Rakhat Aliyev, the chairman of the board of A.V. Maximus was a certain Christian Leskoschek, about whom little else ever became known. A lot more, however, was to become known of the holding’s president of the board administrators — for Adolf Wala was no one less than the former director-general of the National Bank of Austria, a post he had held between 1988 and 1998, after which he became its president until he retired in 2003. Two articles in Austria’s leading daily Der Standard dated July 26 and July 31 2009 were to relate how not only did Wala hold the post of managing director of ASTA, in which he owned 90 per cent with the remaining 10 per cent in the hands of Aliyev’s A.V. Maximus. He also remained in control of OeNB Immo-Gesellschaft which he had founded back in time. In 2007, he helped A.V. Maximus to establish a new real estate company under the name Howa Projectentwicklung GmbH, under nominal director of a lawyer named Peter Jandl.

Even long before Schwartz & Co changed its name and started to move to new premises time and again, trouble rose as well, BusinessABC was to report. It started in Germany, when as early as 2005 Armoreal Trading became the subject of a police investigation in Wiesbaden, which was reported to the local Interpol office for crossborder research. No reports of follow-ups on the initiative were to reach the public domain in years to follow. In spring 2007, however, three Austrian banks, Schoellerbank AG, Privatinvest Bank AG and M&A Privatbank AG, took the initiative to report “suspicious” transactions involving Aliyev’s companies to the Interior Ministry, upon which on the order of the State Prosecutor all his enterprises’ bank accounts were blocked. After Aliyev reported the ins and outs of all previous transactions, the accounts were unblocked again,

What should follow is a coordinated attempt by Europe’s police forces and prosecutors to put a comprehensive file on Aliyev together. However, events and developments that have reached the public domain so far rather tend to point in the opposite direction. It could well be true that Kazakhstan at least in part deserves its bad reputation in terms of its treatment of detainees and inmates and judicial proceedings. This, however, can never be an excuse for European Union member states and other champions of democracy in the world to give the country’s murderers and thieves plush opportunity to get away with what they have allegedly done. Unfortunately, the ball is in the camp of the west, and not many volunteers for a free-kick seem to be in sight.


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