Aliyev’s hunters accused of ‘espionage’

Lawyers chasing Kazakh exile in Malta have computer servers seized over allegations of association with foreign secret service.

Rakhat Aliyev.
Rakhat Aliyev.

A spectacular turn of events has taken place in Austria, where one of the main persecutors of Kazakh exile Rakhat Aliyev, who lives in Malta under the name of Rakhat Shorav, had two of his computer servers seized by the Viennese prosecution on suspicion of alleged "espionage".

Lawyer Gabriel Lansky leads a tireless campaign to bring Aliyev, 51, to justice over the murder of two Nurbank bankers. Aliyev, formerly the son-in-law of Kazakhstan dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev, was sentenced to 20 years' imprisonment in absentia by a Kazakh court for their murder. Since his 2010 sentencing, Aliyev has absconded from Austria where he served as Kazakh ambassador, and now lives in Malta.

So far, Lansky and his lawyers have been crucial in locating the whereabouts of money that multi-millionaire Aliyev has transferred from various countries through Austria and Malta and into various tax havens.

But in August, the accusations turned against him. Luxembourg company Labgroup had its offices raided by a police unit from the Grand Duchy, on the strength of a letter-rogatory from Vienna demanding the seizure of "documents and data in any form whatsoever in connection with Gabriel Lansky and the Tagdyr Association," the latter a campaign for justice fronted by the widows of the murdered bankers.

Police seized two Hewlett-Packard servers, a Toshiba hard disk and 129 backup files, ostensibly for information on allegations that Lansky had influenced ongoing investigations on Aliyev, again allegedly on behalf of the Kazakh secret service.

According to the Vienna public prosecutor, Lansky may be investigated on charges of "secret intelligence operations to the detriment of Austria", Austrian journal Profil reported.

Lansky has replied to the allegations, categorically denying any association with the Kazakh secret service. "The accusation is absurd. The firm has cooperated with Kazakh law enforcement agencies, as the representative of the Nurbank victims."

Back in July, Lansky had told MaltaToday that his firm was "not connected to the Nazarbayev clan".

"Lansky, Ganzger and Partner represent a group of Kazakh individuals who for many years have been declared by the Kazakh and Austrian justice to be victims of Rakhat Aliyev. We are in parte civile in investigations against Aliyev and his associates in Austria and Germany and are actively engaged in official criminal investigations in Malta.

"The victims' group [Tagdyr] is led by the widows of two managers of the Kazakh bank Nurbank, who were allegedly kidnapped and allegedly murdered by or at the behest of Aliyev in 2007."

Rakhat Aliyev, formerly the deputy head of the Kazakh secret service, is already being investigated on the double-murder by Austrian prosecutors, while in Germany a criminal investigation on allegations of money laundering, in part initiated by Lanksy in 2010.

The Maltese police have also been carrying out their own investigations into the movement of Aliyev's assets to Malta.

On his part, Aliyev remains Malta's most notorious of foreign exiles, claiming in his new autobiography - recently published by Progress Press, publishers for The Times - that Lanksy is employed by the offices of the Kazakh government.

Aliyev is married to Austrian citizen Elnara Shorazova and enjoys free movement across the EU. Austria had refused to extradite Aliyev to Kazakhstan and instead opened its own investigations into the double murders; so far, Malta has never received an extradition request from Austria.

A Maltese court recently turned down a request by the former prime minister of Kazakhstan, Akezhan Kazageldin, to investigate Aliyev on accusations that as deputy head of the Kazakh secret service, he had ordered the torture of two bodyguards to confess to trumped-up charges of an attempt coup against Nazarbayev.