Russia's Kasparov backs case of dissident banker

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

PARIS (AP) — Russian chess master and political activist Garry Kasparov said a Kazakh dissident banker is in danger if a court rules he should be extradited from France.

Kasparov spoke Thursday as he prepared to testify in an appeals court hearing on the man's fate.

The case of Mukhtar Ablyazov has been tangled up in courts in at least five countries since he fled Kazakhstan amid the nationalization of BTA Bank, which he had led as chairman. Ablyazov was arrested in southern France on July 31, 2013, on an international warrant and has been jailed ever since, as Russia and Ukraine seek his extradition over billions missing from the bank.

Once a member of Kazakh leader Nursultan Nazarbayev's inner circle, Ablyazov turned against his mentor to found an opposition movement.

Forensic accountants said Ablyazov embezzled billions from BTA as chairman, funneling the money into offshore entities. Courts in Britain, where he has political asylum, have ruled in BTA's favor for billions of dollars, but Ablyazov has not paid. He fled Britain just ahead of a ruling to jail him for 22 months for contempt.

Kasparov said regardless of the legal issues, Russia's case against Ablyazov is political.

"If Mr. (Vladimir) Putin finds it appropriate, I have no doubt that the courtroom in Russia, if God forbid Mr. Ablyazov is extradited there, will be a kangaroo court," said Kasparov, who himself was prosecuted in Russia over his political activism.

The chess expert alleged that Putin will use Ablyazov "as a political pawn in his game with Nazarbayev."