A controversial residence permit and inaction from the Maltese police force to investigate torture allegations and human rights violations are leading up to a public appeal by a victims' campaign that is seeking the prosecution of former Kazakh diplomat and multi-millionaire exile Rakhat Aliyev.
The former democratically-elected prime minister of East Germany, Lothar de Maizière and his client, Satzhan Ibraev, are to make a public appeal in Malta in the coming weeks for the prosecution of Aliyev after four requests to the police were turned down.
Ibraev and another Kazakh national, Pyotr Afanasenko, were bodyguards to former Kazakh prime minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin, and claim they were subjected to torture under interrogation and in prison in 2000, in a bid to force their admission that Kazhegeldin had planned a coup d'état against Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev - then father-in-law to Aliyev, who was also deputy chief of the secret service.
Numerous requests to the Commissioner of Police John Rizzo and assistant commissioner Andrew Seychell to investigate Aliyev - who is also the subject of other criminal investigations in Austria and Germany - have been followed up by a police challenge in the Maltese courts.
"I am coming to Malta to draw the attention of Malta's people and its policymakers, to the fact that it has been providing safe haven to a ruthless criminal, a fugitive from justice. I want to tell them how I and my colleagues suffered when Aliyev and his henchmen tortured us for simply doing our job for our former boss, who happened to be Aliyev's political nemesis. Malta's government continues to deny Aliyev's very presence in Malta, it seems, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Malta must abide by EU's high standards of justice and stop sheltering wanted criminals," Ibraev told MaltaToday.
De Maizière, who is representing the bodyguards, said it was "scandalous and extremely unjust" that Aliyev was allowed residence in Malta after leaving Austria, where he was an ambassador for Kazakhstan before being stripped of diplomatic immunity, and that the Maltese police have refused to investigate the alleged crimes.
"It is well known that Rakhat Aliyev and his family live in Malta. He has invested huge sums in real estate and created a holding for the management of property in various European countries."
MaltaToday uncovered Aliyev's move to Malta when his former lawyer, Pio Valletta, filed a lawsuit against Aliyev's wife Elnara Shorazova after the couple refused to pay him nothing short of a cool €1.5 million in legal fees. It is understood that Shorazova was encouraged by Valletta, a director in Fort Cambridge, to buy one of the company's Tigne apartments.
With several residences under his name - having taken Shoraz as a surname - Aliyev's presence is known to the foreign ministry as well as the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit, which has been furnished with confidential information of how Aliyev's money was moved to Malta and then to the tax haven of Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Further suspicion was aroused when Pio Valletta presented his legal bills to the Maltese court, one of which was a €150,000 fee for having procured Aliyev a residence permit despite having been flagged in a security alert from Interpol - which has since been repealed - related to an ongoing Austrian investigation into his role in the murder of two Nurbank bankers.
Aliyev has actually been interrogated by Viennese prosecutors in the Maltese courts on this matter alone.
The residence permit alone dragged foreign minister Tonio Borg, his spokesperson Melvyn Mangion, former home affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici and assistant police commissioner Andew Seychell in court as witnesses called by Pio Valletta - a pending matter now being settled out of court.
Borg, currently in preparation for a grilling from MEPs as commissioner-designate, had already told MaltaToday that Aliyev had the right to settle in any EU State as he was married to an Austrian citizen.
But senior police investigators in Malta refused to entertain four specific requests by the bodyguards' lawyers to investigate Aliyev, forcing the lawyers to file a 'police challenge' in the Maltese courts and force the hand of the police to commence investigations.
"The victims are ready to testify in Malta directly to the Commissioner of Police," de Maizière told MaltaToday.
Although the lawyers believe their evidence and the victims' affidavits offer detailed accounts of systematic torture, in July 2012 the Maltese police informed them that their allegations "lacked the legal elements which constitute crimes against humanity" as laid down in the Criminal Code.
De Maizière differs: "We have presented satisfactory shows that the actions of Mr Aliyev are indeed crimes against humanity."
Additionally - and this detail alone appears to have baffled the De Mazière legal team - the Police appear to have confused the crimes they have been asked to investigate. Assistant police commissioner Andrew Seychell, in an earlier letter in March 2012, referred to the allegations made by the victims as "[not] crimes... the Maltese authorities can exercise jurisdiction. The facts alleged do not constitute war crimes and nor can Rakhat Aliyev be said to be a permanent resident..."
But as it turns out, Aliyev enjoys residence in Malta as the husband of an Austrian citizen, giving him a residence permit obtained under the Immigration Act.
MEPs' interest in the Aliyev case
Aliyev, formerly the son-in-law of Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev, lives in self-imposed exile in Malta, but could be using his yacht M/Y Alessandra to move around the Mediterranean, after having been stripped of his position and immunity in Austria in 2007, when he was sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison by a Kazakh court, on charges of kidnapping bankers Zholdas Temiraliev and Aybar Khasenov.
Aliyev denies the charges and claims he is a victim of the politically repressive state led by the oligarchs that form Nazarbayev's inner clan.
His extradition to Kazakhstan in 2007 was rejected by Austria, but Viennese prosecutors are carrying out criminal investigations for money laundering and kidnapping.
The EU's Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding has also invited Eurojust to look into the Aliyev investigation and support investigators to resolve any cross-border differences to render the investigations effective.
Borg has already told MaltaToday that the government will act on any European arrest warrant issued by Austrian investigators, and that it would "review" Aliyev's residence permit "should new irregularities arise" other than those under investigation by the Austrians.