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Runaway oligarch says Kazakh leader takes revenge on his family

by FP Staff  Jun 2, 2013 00:30 IST

ALMATY (Reuters) - Fugitive Kazakh oligarch and dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov said on Saturday Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev had "kidnapped" his wife and daughter after Italy deported them for passport offences.

Ablyazov, 50, fled the oil-rich Central Asian state after his bank BTA BTAS.KZ was nationalised and declared insolvent in 2009. The former government minister, who says his life is in danger, was granted political asylum in Britain in 2011.

BTA has brought fraud charges against Ablyazov and his allies. Accused of embezzling $6 billion, he has been in hiding since last year when he fled Britain after missing a contempt of court hearing at which he was due to be jailed for 22 months.

Ablyazov, accused at home of stoking unrest, said on his Facebook page that armed Italian police had taken his wife Alma Shalabayeva from a house in a Rome suburb on May 29. He said police had removed his six-year-old daughter Alua on Friday.

Italian news agency Ansa said Ablyazov's wife had been found to have a false passport.

Kazakhstan's official news agency Kazinform said Italian authorities had deported Ablyazov's wife and daughter to Kazakhstan because his wife had been living in Italy illegally.

It said Shalabayeva had been using a false passport issued by the Central African Republic in the name of Ayan Alma. The Kazakh authorities could not be reached for comment.

Ablyazov said his wife and daughter had been in Italy legally. He said a local judge had ordered they should be sent to Kazakhstan, after which they were put on a private jet bound for the Kazakh capital Astana.

"I declare that the kidnapping of my family was ordered by President Nursultan Nazarbayev. He has now switched from political repression to outright terrorist tactics of taking hostages," Ablyazov said.

Kazakhstan's presidency declined to comment.

Ansa said lawyers had tried to oppose the deportation, saying Ablyazov's wife could be at risk in her country.

"Shalabayeva should not have been expelled because she did nothing wrong, and, above all, she should not have been handed over to Kazakhstan," it quoted lawyer Riccardo Olivo as saying.

The Italian authorities and the lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ablyazov's older daughter Madina, who lives in Switzerland, fears her mother may be mistreated in Kazakhstan as the wife of an opponent of Nazarbayev, Ansa said.

Ablyazov, a theoretical physics graduate who earned a fortune after the Soviet Union's demise, told Reuters in an interview in December that he would run for office if free elections were called when Nazarbayev's rule ends.

Nazarbayev, a 72-year-old former steelworker, has governed his vast nation of 17 million for more than two decades. He has overseen market reforms and foreign investment inflows that have ensured rapid economic growth, but he has tolerated no dissent.

In October, Ablyazov's friend Vladimir Kozlov, also a fierce critic of Nazarbayev, was found guilty by a Kazakh court of colluding with the runaway oligarch in attempting to bring down Kazakhstan's government and jailed for seven-and-a-half years. (Additional reporting by Philip Pullella in Rome and Raushan Nurshayeva in Astana; Editing by Alistair Lyon)

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