For eight years, Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank has waged a legal war on three continents against former Chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov - over $4 billion in missing bank assets. Now, court cases playing out on both sides of the Atlantic could pull back the curtain on whether some of those funds wound up in properties developed by former associates of Donald J. Trump.
Kazakh investors were drawn to the allure of the Trump brand and a country with the rule of law, according to Kate Mallinson, a partner at Prism Political Risk Management Ltd. in London and an expert on Kazakhstan. “The Kazakhs learned from Russia that a Trump property was a safe place to park your money for a while,” she said, pointing out that capital flight from the country, fueled by political uncertainty, probably reached a peak in 2012.
BTA Bank, once the Central Asian nation’s biggest lender, has accused Ablyazov of embezzling billions of dollars’ worth of mines, hotels, shopping centers and other assets in the former Soviet bloc between 2005 and 2009. Even as the lender sought to recover those holdings, Ablyazov and members of his family were funneling hundreds of millions of dollars into properties in Europe and the U.S., including three condominiums in a 46-story luxury development in lower Manhattan known as Trump SoHo, court documents allege.
Ablyazov enlisted his son-in-law, Iliyas Khrapunov, to help him conceal his assets, according to sworn statements from former associates of the fugitive financier. The previously reported purchases in Trump SoHo, developed by Bayrock Group LLC in partnership with the Trump Organization, were made by members of Khrapunov’s family, the bank has alleged in court documents. Khrapunov also worked on a separate deal with Felix Sater, a former Bayrock executive and onetime adviser to Trump.
Ablyazov, who held a majority stake in BTA Bank, said in the interview that he legally owned
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