Lawyer acquitted of misappropriating €1.5 million from Rakhat Aliyev over lack of evidence

Lawyer Pio Valletta off the hook after death of Kazakh millionaire Rakhat Aliyev and refusal of wife Elnara Shorazova to come out of hiding to testify in Malta case

Rakhat Aliyev was found dead in 2015 in an Austrian prison cell
Rakhat Aliyev was found dead in 2015 in an Austrian prison cell

A Maltese lawyer has been cleared of misappropriating funds belonging to Elnara Shorazova and Rakhat Aliyev, the former son-in-law of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, due to lack of evidence – Aliyev having died in prison in an apparent suicide and Shorazova refusing to come out of hiding to testify in Malta for security reasons.

In 2007, Aliyev was tried, in absentia, for murder of two bankers by a Kazakh court while serving as Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the OSCE in Vienna and sentenced to 20 years’ imprisonment – his marriage to the daughter of the Kazakh president being officially cancelled and Aliyev being stripped of his diplomatic immunity.

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He lived in self-imposed exile in Malta after 2010 before turning himself into the Austrian authorities, which were carrying out their own investigation into the Nurbank double murder. Aliyev died in an Austrian prison in 2015. Although an Austrian court had ruled his death as a suicide, his lawyer insists that he was murdered.

In 2013, Shorazova filed a police report against lawyer Pio Valletta, whom she had engaged to purchase property in Malta to move here from Austria with her husband in 2011.

Shorazova told the police that some €2.4 million had been withdrawn from the couple’s account and deposited in an account held by A&P Power Limited, before being moved into other accounts related to the lawyer.

The disputed amount was later refunded by Valletta, and Shorazova renounced her claim, leaving Malta after the death of her husband.

Valletta told the police the €2.4 million was intended by Aliyev to finance a company in Austria.

The funds had been sent by Shorazova through her BOV account in December 2010, but because A&P Power Limited was still a shelf company and Shorazova and her husband were not yet named as beneficiaries of the company, the couple had asked Valletta to find somewhere to park their money until the company was active.

They had later agreed to deposit the funds in an account belonging to Trade & Trade Yachting Limited, a company which Valletta was a director of, where they remained until May 2011.

Valletta insisted that the funds were not transferred to the couple’s account due to the pending legal proceedings against them in Kazakhstan, and because their Austrian lawyer advised them not to make any money transfers. He denied misappropriating any funds.

Valletta claimed that a transfer of €700,000 from A&P Power Limited to his bank account had been an advance fee agreed with Aliyev, although there had been no agreement on the amount.

Due to the fact that Shorazova did not testify in this case, the court observed that there was no evidence contradicting Valletta’s account, finding him not guilty of the charges. “The fact that one of the complainants is now deceased and the other has chosen not to return to Malta and the fact that for security reasons, her whereabouts are not known to anyone but her lawyers, certainly undermines the prosecution’s case,” held the court.