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Ablyazov’s 13-Year Legal Fight Reaches Climax as French Court Prepares to Rule on Asylum – Legal Reader

After years of court cases and appeals, the question of whether Ablyazov should receive political asylum in France is now back with the CNDA.
One of Europe’s longest-running legal disputes is inching towards resolution as a French court prepares to rule on whether the billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov should be granted political asylum.
According to an investigation by Paris Match magazine, the French National Asylum Court (CNDA) is due to rule on Ablyazov’s fate “imminently”.
This could mark the culmination of a 13-year legal fight between Ablyazov and Kazakhstan, the financier’s former homeland, over whether he should face fraud and embezzlement charges.
If the CNDA grants Ablyazov asylum, Paris Match said that it could cause tensions between France and Kazakhstan and put at jeopardy valuable defence, uranium and oil contracts. French officials are reported to be nervously awaiting the outcome of the case.
However, if the billionaire fugitive is not granted asylum it is likely to trigger another round of legal fights over what happens to him next.
This long-running legal drama has its origins in 2009, when BTA Bank, which was owned by Ablyazov, collapsed. Ablyazov fled Kazakhstan and prosecutors subsequently alleged that he had stolen more than $7.5 billion from the bank. He was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison.
Ablyazov initially fled to London and was granted asylum in the UK. BTA’s creditors brought a legal claim against Ablyazov and the High Court ruled that he should repay the bank $4.6 billion.
The oligarch failed to cooperate with the court and, as a result, he was sentenced to 22 months in jail for contempt. His asylum was also revoked, leading to a dramatic overnight bus journey to Paris.

An old-model Greyhound bus. Image via Wikimedia Commons. Public domain.BTA’s subsidiaries in Russia and Ukraine brought fraud proceedings against Ablyazov and both countries filed extradition warrants with France in 2013. Two more years of court cases in France resulted in the extradition requests being upheld and Manuel Valls, prime minister at the time, signed the formal extradition order.
However, Ablyazov’s extradition was overturned by the Council of State in 2016, which ruled that the billionaire should be treated as a political refugee due to his opposition to the Kazakh regime.
Ablyazov’s case was then sent to the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA), which decided in 2018 that he did not qualify for political asylum.
Ablyazov appealed this decision with the CNDA and the OFPRA decision was overturned on the grounds that the billionaire faced “risks of persecution… due to political positions”. Yet another appeal led to the case ending up with the Council of State again, which despite its earlier support for the Kazakh fugitive, decided that he should not receive asylum status.
After years of court cases and appeals, the question of whether Ablyazov should receive political asylum in France is now back with the CNDA.
According to Paris Match, the new president of the CNDA has been on the job just one month and must now pick up this political hot potato. Mathieu Hérondart, the former chief of staff at the Ministry of Justice, will be expected to rule on this contentious legal fight in a case that could sour relations between France and Kazakhstan.
According to Paris Match: “It is now up to the CNDA to decide on the thorny case. The issue is sensitive because of France’s links with Kazakhstan in the field of arms sales and uranium supply.”

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