Kazakhstan: Prosecutor accused journalist of receiving $ 110,000 on behalf of Mukhtar Ablyazov
At the court session, Prosecutor Erkin Baimagambetov announced the charge for the acting editor of the opposition newspaper "Sayasi Kalam. Tribuna" Zhanbolat Mamai on 18 August - "committed a crime in the sphere of economic activity" having received money allegedly illegally withdrawn from BTA Bank.
According to the prosecutor's office, the former first deputy governor of the bank, Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov, "by the direct order of [Mukhtar] Ablyazov" asked the sister of Shamshia living in Kazakhstan to transfer money to Zhanbolat Mamai, and she passed about $ 110,000 through her husband, "Azattyk" (Kazakh service of Radio Liberty) reports.
Zhanbolat Mamai in the courtroom. Photo by Azattyk
Responding the judge whether he accepts the charge, Mamai replied: "I am familiar with Zharimbetov. He supported the newspaper. I do not consider it money laundering. "
The injured party is "BTA Bank" in this case. But its representative in court could not answer the questions of the Mamai's lawyer Madina Bakiyeva, after which his interrogation was stopped due to insufficient preparedness and went on to question witnesses.
One of the key witnesses is the former top manager of BTA Bank, Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov, who was extradited to Kazakhstan in January, and in June was sentenced to five years in prison conditionally for involvement in embezzlement of funds from the bank and membership in an "organised criminal group" under the leadership of the former head of "BTA Bank" Mukhtar Ablyazov.
"Mukhtar [Ablyazov] said that such a sum should be transferred [to Mamai]," Zharimbetov recalls. "I called my relatives. The money was which I left here in the cell. My sister and brother-in-law Akhanov transferred." He added that Ablyazov was supplying the transferred money to him, mainly transferring money to his account.
Zharimbetov said that in 2012 he stopped talking with Ablyazov, but "voluntarily" continued to transfer money to Mamai "from himself." At the same time, Zharimbetov claims that he did not receive any benefit from this, did not interfere with the editorial policy and did not order any publications in the newspaper.
Mamai, he said, sent him reports indicating spending.
"I thought that the country needed an independent press," Zharimbetov explained his motives. And later he said: "I did not help the 'Tribuna' newspaper. I helped Mr Mamai personally. "
Zharimbetov explained that he had received money from the sister's bank cell in BTA Bank and considered them his savings, as he worked at the bank and received a salary of $ 24,000 and bonuses. On the question of the lawyers of the defendant, whether Mamai knew about the origin of money, Zharimbetov replied that he "was not interested and was doing his job."
Kazakhstani human rights activists are convinced that the arrest and trial of 29-year-old Zhanbolat Mamai is the revenge of the state for being a supporter of Mukhtar Ablyazov, considered the major enemy of the Kazakh government.
Earlier, a number of foreign human rights organisations - Article 19, Amnesty International, Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and some others stood up in defence of Zhanbolat Mamai.
Arrested on 10 February this year, the journalist is accused of “legalising money, or other property obtained illegally;” he faces up to seven years in prison. According to the version of the anti-corruption bureau that carried out the investigation, Zhanbolat Mamai helped the Kazakhstani banker and opposition leader Mukhtar Ablyazov “launder” about one hundred thousand dollars. At the same time, the investigation agreed that all the money was spent on the needs of the editorial staff - printing the newspaper and paying salaries to employees, that is, Ablyazov did not receive his money back.
Ablyazov himself believes that there is no case against Zhanbolat Mamai because he is accused of receiving Ablyazov's money, not Zharimbetov's, while Zharimbetov claims that he gave his personal money to the journalist.
"What should the investigation do? A. Obtain confirming evidence from Ablyazov with PROOF that there was such an arrangement. The exact amount and transfer to personal accounts of Zharimbetov.
I did not give such testimony because there were no such agreements. And Zharimbetov cannot present either written or other evidence. Further. There were no money transfers to Zharimbetov's personal accounts. Where is the evidence that the investigator should have received, and then the court had to ask? There will be nothing. Because there were no such transfers.
B. If Zharimbetov transferred his money, the investigation should have immediately closed the case of Mamai, since he is accused of receiving Ablyazov's money, not Zharimbetov.
C. Close the case against Mamai, because according to Ablyazov, at the time of Mamai's arrest there was no a single court decision that recognises ANY money from Ablyazov have been stolen," Ablyazov wrote on his Facebook page.