Aliyev accuses MaltaToday of being financed by his persecutors

Exiled Kazakh to have book printed at Allied Newspapers’ printing press.

Kazakh multi-millionaire exile Rakhat Aliyev claims his persecutors are financing the media in Malta, when he had expressed his wish to buy a newspaper here.
Kazakh multi-millionaire exile Rakhat Aliyev claims his persecutors are financing the media in Malta, when he had expressed his wish to buy a newspaper here.

One year after he approached MaltaToday's owners in a bid to buy this newspaper, the multi-millionaire Kazakh exile Rakhat Aliyev is claiming MaltaToday is being "financed" by his persecutors.

The elusive former son-in-law of Kazakhstan's dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev made a rare appearance in the Maltese courts this week to answer to letters rogatory from Austrian prosecutors, who are investigating his involvement in the death of two Nurbank bankers in 2007.

Accompanied by his wife, Austrian citizen Elnara Shorazova, Aliyev entered the courtroom of Magistrate Claire Zammit Stafrace for his deposition.

The day before on Thursday, the former prime minister of Kazakhstan complained in a Maltese court that the Commissioner of Police was refusing to investigate his political rival Aliyev, who has sought refuge in Malta.

Aliyev appeared stunned at being approached by a MaltaToday journalist, whom he asked for identification before commenting on the challenge brought by former prime minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin and his bodyguards Satzhan Ibraev and Pyotr Afanasenko, so that he is investigated for "crimes against humanity".

"When the time comes I will talk, but not now. What I can say is that MaltaToday is a newspaper which has chosen to persecute me and is being financed by people who have clear intentions. I had told this to your owner. I had met him.

"Your paper is not objective, and I am talking to my lawyers to sue you for defamation. This cannot go on."

Aliyev is understood to have a book soon to be printed by Progress Press, the company owned by the publishers of The Times of Malta.

It was Aliyev who had approached MaltaToday through a Maltese entrepreneur to discuss an offer to purchase this newspaper. His offer was turned down.

Hunting down Aliyev in Malta

Why would a wealthy Kazakh businessman with global financial interests and accusations of human rights violations seek 'refuge' in Malta?

Aliyev, who will celebrate his 50th birthday on 10 December and can relocate to any place in the world, came to Malta some time in 2010 thanks to the permanent residence scheme that granted him a 15% flat tax rate for buying property. That property in question was one or more Fort Cambridge apartments in Tigné, the development owned by Gap Developments plc's George Muscat and tuna-ranching magnate Charles Azzopardi.

But then Aliyev fell out with one of Gap Developments' directors, his own lawyer Pio Valletta, for demanding a total of €1.5 million in legal fees when he relocated the Aliyevs to Malta and transferred a handsome investment into a Maltese bank account.

With both men embroiled in claims and counter-claims, MaltaToday broke the news that Valletta had invoiced Aliyev nothing less than €150,000 just to procure him residence status when an Interpol alert threatened to stall proceedings - a handsome expense which Valletta said was "owing to difficulties related to his political past".

Adding to the intrigue was the witness list submitted by Valletta: foreign minister Tonio Borg and former home affairs minister Carm Mifsud Bonnici. The case is now the subject of an out-of-court settlement.

But Aliyev's presence in Malta has attracted major media, and legal attention.

On one front, the former Kazakh prime minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin claims that as deputy head of the Kazakh secret service, Aliyev subjected his bodyguards to torture under interrogation and in prison in 2000, to force their admission that Kazhegeldin had planned a coup d'état against President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Leading that legal team is the former democratically-elected prime minister of East Germany, Lothar de Maizière.

On another front, Aliyev's global business activities are being tracked down by the legal representatives of the widows of the Nurbank bankers - a tag team of Austrian high-profile attorneys and public relations experts leading the challenge.

In 2007, Aliyev was tried in absentia while serving as Kazakhstan's ambassador to the OSCE in Vienna, and sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment by a Kazakh court - his marriage to the daughter of the Kazakh president was officially cancelled and he was stripped of his diplomatic immunity.

On his part, Aliyev submits that he is a victim of an international campaign directly financed by his former father-in-law, who has ruled Kazakhstan since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. For example, he accuses the lawyers representing the Nurbank widows - Lansky Ganzgner Partner - of representing the interests of the Nazarbayev regime.

And in his propaganda opus 'Godfather-In-Law', Aliyev documents his career under the irremovable Nazarbayev whom he says follows in the footsteps of the 'Genghis Khan, the Russian tsars and the Bolsheviks'.

It is no secret that both Nazarbayev and Aliyev's family feud is actively engaged in employing lobbyists in countries as far as the United States.

Kazakhstan, albeit a repressive Central Asian state, is strategically important to the USA for its enormous oil reserves: embassy cables leaked by Wikileaks reveal requests for US assistance on Aliyev's extradition; the New York Times revealed American political lobbyists employed by both sides of the Nazarbayev-Aliyev divide, appealing to members of the American Congress to either condemn the Kazakh government, or further pro-Kazakhstan causes.

Malta's reputation

On Thursday, deputy attorney general Donatella Frendo Dimech gave the courts a passionate rebuttal as to why the Maltese police could not investigate Aliyev, claiming they had "no jurisdiction" on the alleged crimes because they were not committed in Malta and becuase Malta had no extradition treaty with Kazakhstan.

Aliyev was revealed to have applied for permanent residence status in Malta, benefiting from a flat-rate 15% tax status, and then obtained a residence permit under the Immigration Act by virtue of being married to an Austrian citizen, giving him freedom of movement.

Frendo Dimech said Malta was cooperating with Austrian prosecutors who are gathering evidence on Aliyev on other criminal investigations.

Lothar de Maizière, who represents Kazhegeldin, has 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."

Aliyev is not only wanted by the people hunting him down for money or to simply claim justice: Austrian and German politicians whose constituents are sensitive to their countries' foreign policy and human rights records have also taken an interest in Aliyev's sojourn, having asked foreign minister Tonio Borg to explain why he enjoys residence here.

"Alijev has a residence permit issued by the Austrian government, he is married to an EU citizen, and as such enjoys freedom of movement and residence," a spokesperson for Borg had told MaltaToday.

"Should Austrian authorities issue a European arrest warrant this will be executed by the Maltese authorities. Should new irregularities arise other than those on which the extradition request was based, this residence permit will be reviewed."

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Well done indeed, Malta Today, because you have proven that you do carry out fair and honest investigative reporting. Apart from Evarist Bartolo, a journalist and an active PL member of parliament, you are the only journalists doing on this small rock in the Med. Power to your tablet.
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Rita Pizzuto
Congratulations Malta Today for a story well written and researched. To be honest with you I don't have an opinion about this man, and he can go to he'll, or heaven for all I care, but your story makes for interesting reading. Well done!