The Kazakh authorities claim to have foiled a major terror plot linked to fugitive banker and persona non grata Mukhtar Ablyazov. According to the Prosecutor General, Ablyazov provided $25,000 to Alexander Pavlov, who has been on the run since 2009 and who has served as Ablyazov’s personal bodyguard since 2005.
The money was allegedly used to buy bombs which would be set off in a number of locations in downtown Almaty on March 24, including parks and office buildings. The government says that the attacks were intended to “frighten the population, create an atmosphere of chaos and panic and destabilise the social and political situation in the country.”
Ablyazov was once Energy and Industry Minister before he fell from grace and set up an opposition party. Although he managed to regain favour, things changed when BTA began to collapse in 2008. He fled to the UK soon afterwards, claiming persecution. He is currently wanted for $4.5 billion in embezzlement and fraud.
He was able to stonewall the torturous court proceedings, although he lamented that being stuck between his luxurious office and his nine-bedroom mansion was “not dissimilar to a prison”. But when a UK High Court judge sentenced him to 22 months in February for contempt of court, he promptly vanished, allegedly on a bus to France. He has filed an appeal in absentia, which BTA is seeking to remove.
With the latest twist, the government is looking to paint Ablyazov as not just a crook but a dangerous terrorist with links to “representatives of radical religious groups”. This is not new – Ablyazov was, to begin with, also accused of masterminding the deadly unrest in Zhanoezen last December in connection with Rakhat Aliev, another of the exiled oligarchs. Both accusations seem paranoid or farcical by turns.