Mukhtar Ablyazov, the ex-BTA Bank chairman who went into hiding last month after being sentenced to 22 months in jail, must turn himself in or risk losing his right to defend a $5 billion fraud lawsuit, a U.K. judge ruled.
BTA, which sued Ablyazov after he fled three years ago to Britain from Kazakhstan, can block his defense and seek a default judgment if he doesn’t report to court authorities by March 9, Judge Nigel Teare ruled Feb. 29.
Ablyazov “has gone into hiding,” Teare, who oversaw a two-week trial in December in London, said in his judgment. “Not even his own solicitors, who continue to act for him in this matter and to receive instructions from him, know where he is.”
BTA, which was the biggest lender in Kazakhstan before it defaulted on $12 billion of debt in 2009, filed a series of civil suits against Ablyazov and ex-Chief Executive Officer Roman Solodchenko claiming they took more than $5 billion from the Almaty-based bank using fake loans, back-dated documents and offshore companies. Both men have denied the claims.
Ablyazov didn’t appear at a Feb. 16 sentencing hearing after Teare found him in contempt of court for lying about his assets, including a mansion and two apartments in London, and moving money in violation of 2009 asset freeze issued in the fraud case. The bank’s lawyers said he may be in France now.
After Ablyazov fled the Feb. 16 hearing, Ukrainian authorities blocked what may have been an attempt to use an entity there to set up shell companies in Belize, BTA lawyer Stephen Smith said at a Feb. 24 hearing.
‘Most Draconian Order’
Ablyazov’s spokesman, Locksley Ryan, didn’t respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Ablyazov’s lawyer, Duncan Matthews, said last month that to deny his client’s right to defend himself in the fraud case would be “the most draconian order the court could take.”
“Ablyazov continues to defy the orders of the English high court,” the bank said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. “BTA Bank will persist in its efforts to protect and recover assets which will benefit our creditors and shareholders.”
The case is: JSC BTA Bank v. Mukhtar Ablyazov,  EWHC 1136 (Comm), Royal Courts of Justice (London).
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