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A conference on financial fraud took place at the European Parliament on Thursday 9 November in Brussels. It was attended by MEPs, journalists and representatives of NGOs based in

Brussels. The panellists, including Frank Schalba-Hoth, honary MEP, Gary Cartwright, editor of EU Today, Jarek Jakimczik, polish journalist, and economist Björn Hultin raised, amongst others, the case of Kazakh businessman Mukhtar Ablyazov who is infamously involved in the embezzlement of up to $10 billion from Kazakh BTA Bank.

The case is thought to be the largest financial fraud case in history. Mr. Cartwright, who has followed it closely since it began back in 2004, with the death of Kazakh banker Yerzhan Tatishev, explained that “at the time, it was thought to be an accident but it later turned out to have been a contract killing” linked to Mr Ablyzov. Shortly afterwards, Mr. Ablyazov became chairman of BTA Bank. As chairman, Mr. Abylazov is believed to have subsequently granted large loans to a network of shell companies that he registered in offshore tax havens such as the Seychelles and the British Virgin Islands. “Huge fictional deals were made by BTA bank to the sum of billions of dollars that subsequently vanished from the bank”, Cartwright explained.

Currently Mr. Abylazov resides in France where he fled after British courts judged for the recovery of more than $4.5 Billion back to Kazakh BTA Bank and where he also has an outstanding prison sentence. New trials and investigations are taking place in France and a decision on whether Mr Abylazov will be extradited is pending.

According to Mr. Schalba-Hoth, Mr Abylazov may try to seek asylum in Belgium or other countries in Europe in the coming weeks. However, he stated that “it is unlikely that Belgian authorities will grant it to him, but it remains to be seen”. In the meantime, Kazakh BTA Bank is still trying to recover the billions of euros of stolen funds hidden via complex organisational structures in different offshore tax havens.