Investigation of the epic scale fraud in BTA Bank is over. The mastermind and perpetrators, the proxies and accomplices are largely available for the interviews. So why does the financial community not dare to ask Mukhtar Ablyazov personally? And why are there no parties that are seemingly interested in making Mukhtar Ablyazov pay for the crimes?
The fall of BTA Bank, the biggest bank in Kazakhstan led to a banking crisis of unprecedented scale. In 2009 the Central Asian nation lost billions. Because the bank was providing loans for the entire economy, business came to standstill. Those who had maintained current accounts in the bank were left with nothing. Those who kept their deposits were unable to withdraw their funds. The government intervened and prevented the default of the entire country. But it was a close call.
- BTA Bank served as an international bank too. During the crisis international banks lost access to millions stored there.
- HSBC, Standard Chartered, RBS and Barclays lost $500 million.
- Mediobanca, Unicredit, Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena and five other Italian banks lost $250 million.
- French banks were exposed to $50 million in damage.
There is no exact data on US, Swiss, German and Russian losses, but they were also the victims of the BTA Bank collapse.
There is a reasonable question though. All those banks lost millions if not hundreds of millions. So why the banks haven’t attempted to sue Mr. Mukhtar Ablyazov to get him accountable for the heist and instead focused on talks with new management of BTA Bank and national wealth fund, Samruk-Kazyna, to resolve the issue. Mukhtar Ablyazov was readily available for an interview, so why did the creditors lose the opportunity to sue him for compensation? Does it support Ablyazov’s narrative that the government seized his bank unlawfully? Were creditors sure that he isn’t guilty in the largest banking fraud in Central Asia?
Mukhtar Ablyazov isn’t considered innocent by the banking community. On the contrary, banks are cooperating with the authorities to track down the money stolen from the BTA Bank. This cooperation has been proved fruitful as many offshore hideouts established by the perpetrators were busted and the assets frozen. However it is not Mukhtar Ablyazov who is legally responsible for the funds in BTA Bank. It is the new owner of the Bank. International banks and corporations had agreements signed with the bank and not with the owner of the bank.
Beyond the legal plane there is a practical one too. The creditors knew that Kazakhstan would resolve the issue and return the money Mukhtar Ablyazov stole. The government had good will to resolve the issue as soon as possible because it was damaging the country’s reputation. The government had a surplus of money stored in a wealth fund to make a deal with the creditors. On the opposite side Mukhtar Ablyazov had nothing he was willing to show. He was even fined by the court for trying to cover his lavish realty in the UK. His line of defence is entirely based on the political issues and not the corporate one.
Being satisfied with the deal with Kazakhstan multinationals found no reason for the separate proceedings against Mukhtar Ablyazov.
The victory over such an opponent could give nothing to the creditors. Each offshore entity which holds the stolen assets will try to defend itself. So the only option is to turn to the bank which held the stolen asset, not the thief himself.