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Roman Marchenko on How Ukrainian BTA Bank Manages to Improve Performance during a Crisis

Date of publication: 2 March 2015

Source: Delovaya Stolitsa

On March 4, the French court will make a final decision on extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov to Russia or Ukraine, Roman Marchenko, the Senior Partner at Ilyashev & Partners Law Firm says.  

For five years the law enforcement agencies of several countries, including Ukraine, have been seeking prosecution of Mukhtar Ablyazov, a former owner of BTA Bank, accused of fraud. Roman Marchenko, Senior Partner at Ilyashev & Partners Law Firm, speaks on the progress of case of a disgraced Kazakhstani oligarch.

In October last year the Court of Appeal of the French city of Lyon received a favorable decision at the requests of Russia and Ukraine for extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov, but a former banker has not been extradited yet. Why?

R.M. Indeed, the Lyon Court made a favorable decision on the possibility of extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov, thus, recommending his extradition to Russia. According to the French legislation, if two applications for extradition are submitted concurrently, decision is made in favor of the country, where the person in question caused more damage. The damage caused by this swindler in Russia is several times larger than in Ukraine. Ablyazov appealed against the court decision in cassation. The regular hearing in the case was held on February 18, announcement of the decision is expected on March 4. I am convinced that the decision on extradition of ex-banker shall be made for conducting a full judicial investigation against him. If Ablyazov is extradited to our country and the court finds him guilty, he will have to spend up to 12 years in prison.

The attorneys of a Kazakhstani tycoon insist that their client is being persecuted for political reasons. Is it true?

R.M. Ablyazov really speaks about the complex relationship with the sitting President of Kazakhstan. However, the fact that the criminal proceedings were instituted against him not only at home but also in other countries confirms that he is a real swindler, who, though “on a large scale”, just imitates a figure in opposition. Thus, the English court, which impartiality is a commonly-known fact, declared the ex-banker as a swindler and sentenced him to 22 months in prison. Though after the verdict Ablyazov ran away from there, the sentence was unserved. In Ukraine, a criminal case against the oligarch was initiated in the days of the President Yushchenko. The investigation continued in the times of Yanukovych and continues today with the President Poroshenko. Over the past years a dozen of Prosecutors General and Ministers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs have changed, but the law enforcement agencies do not close the case. It is a clear confirmation that the case is not politically charged.

What is the ex-banker accused of by the Ukrainian authorities?

R.M. As the owner and top manager of the bank, he misappropriated large amounts of money, financed his own projects at the expense of depositors’ money. Much money was simply stolen and siphoned off through the offshore companies. Therefore, a number of states – Kazakhstan, Russia, Ukraine, Latvia, Kyrgyzstan – now criminally prosecute the members of Ablyazov’s organized criminal group. Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation have already brought the verdict of guilty to some accomplices of the banker.

Half of the shares of the Ukrainian BTA Bank is owned by the Kazakhstani BTA, the other half is divided among the six companies. The English court ruled to return the shares to the Kazakhstani BTA. When will the decision be enforced?

R.M. Using fraudulent schemes Ablyazov split shares of the Ukrainian bank, which were purchased for the money of the Kazakhstani BTA, into 10% blocks of shares and registered them on different companies. In particular, the Kazakhstani BTA received only 10%, the remaining blocks of shares were distributed among the Ukrainian companies, which supposedly were independent of each other. Later Ablyazov again resold 40% of shares to the Kazakhstani BTA at an overvalued price. As a result, the parent company formally concentrated half of the shares. However, the Kazakhstani BTA succeeded in recognition of their rights to the remaining 50%. At present the formal procedures are being completed, and BTA expects the NBU’s permit to full possession of the Ukrainian bank. We have already obtained the AMCU’s merger clearance.

You are a member of the BTA’s Supervisory Board. How does a Ukrainian “daughter” of BTA Bank cope with the crisis?

R.M. BTA Bank (Ukraine) is strongly supported by the Kazakhstani “parents”, e.g. the largest in Kazakhstan Kazkommertsbank, which assets exceed $25 bln. Unlike many Ukrainian banks, BTA does not require additional capitalization and fully complies with all regulations of the NBU in spite of the crisis and the devaluation of hryvnia. Moreover, two business centers located on the Zhylianska street – Iceberg and Prime (a total area of ​​about 50 sq.m.) – were entered in the books of the Ukrainian bank some years ago. Business centers were acquired for money of the parent company, but now all income from lease is used to support a stable operation of the Ukrainian “daughter”. Due to this constant feeding BTA Ukraine is one of the few high-profit financial institutions, which despite crisis makes progress.