Is justice independent in France? The Mukhtar Abliazov case

Prosecuted for embezzlement in his country of origin, the Kazakh businessman Moukhtar Abliazov now lives in France, where he has been granted political refugee status. At the same time, he is the subject of an indictment by the French justice. On 30 April, he gave the daily Le Monde an interview in which he denounces a political cabal led by the French authorities. Not without approximations and untruths.

Let us first recall the facts: between 2005 and 2009, Mukhtar Abliazov chaired the board of directors of BTA, the third largest bank in Kazakhstan, of which he owned more than 70%. Sentenced in absentia for having embezzled funds to the tune of $7 billion, he has since started a long exile which has seen him settle in the United Kingdom, before settling his suitcases in France. In the meantime, he was ordered to pay $4bn in damages to BTA by a British court, a decision he refused to submit to. No less than three countries are now calling for his extradition, in connection with this gigantic embezzlement.

It is now for the French justice to look into the Abliazov case . By virtue of a provision of the Penal Code (article 113-8-1) which prevents persons having committed offenses from going unpunished, the French authorities are in fact competent to judge the case. Applying this principle of “extradite or judge”, a French investigating judge, Cécile Meyer-Fabre, seized by the Paris prosecutor’s office, decided to indict the former oligarch for “aggravated breach of trust” and “money laundering”. ‘aggravated breach of trust’.

Unfounded accusations against the President of the Republic

In the interview he gave to Le Monde, Abliazov accuses the French state of being behind this indictment, lending Emmanuel Macron the will to please the Kazakh authorities. He puts forward the economic interests which would have pushed the Elysee to “remote control” the justice to cause his extradition. Accusations which are not based on any tangible element, except a letter addressed by Kassym-Jomart Tokaïev to his French counterpart, letter in which mention is made of the “problem” Abliazov.

It has been twelve years since Mr. Abliazov has presented himself as a refugee pursued by the authorities of his country for purely political reasons. Problem: the one who calls himself the leader of the opposition seems to have no official support within the opposition parties in Kazakhstan, if we are to believe their speeches on social networks. Finally, the DVK movement he created was recognized as extremist following insurrectional riots, as was his new “Koshe partiassy” movement. Capitalizing on the sympathy enjoyed by Alexey Navalny with opponents of Vladimir Poutine (and on a certain confusion between countries from the former Soviet bloc), Abliazov readily plays the card of the persecuted opponent.

Le Monde tends to accredit this thesis by choosing to grant it this status in the title of its article, where we could just as well have spoken of a financial criminal on the run. “Abliazov is crying out for a conspiracy against all the jurisdictions which decide to prosecute him specify the lawyers of the bank BTA . “He carried out the same communication campaign in Kazakhstan, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States and now in France. If some could believe that Abliazov was credible at the beginning, it is no longer serious today.” 

Independent justice

With regard to the law, and the suspicions against the President of the Republic, it should be remembered that the courts in France are independent. In no way was the Elysee able to intervene with Cécile Meyer-Fabre in her decision to indict. Just as the Head of State had no say in the decision, taken by the National Court of Asylum (CNDA) after an initial refusal by the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons ( OFPRA), to grant Mr. Abliazov refugee status.

The fact that these decisions could have been taken without this systematically translating into the detriment of the foreign businessman also proves the independence of the courts responsible for ruling, in both cases. In any event, there can be no contradiction between decisions which, for one, fall under administrative law and the other under criminal law. Asked by Le Monde, the Paris Court indicates that “the procedure is following its normal course“.

For their part, the lawyers of the bank BTA specify that “on the merits of the charges, Abliazov surprisingly has nothing to say. According to them, BTA “only hopes to recover the embezzled money”.


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