Behind the Scenes of the Utemuratov Scandal

The über high-profile story of the British court «freezing» billionaire Bulat Utemuratov’s assets is almost over. And it’s ending exactly the way we have predicted. Nonetheless, given certain conditions, the scandal may flare up again.

To remind the reader how the story’s ended, let us quote a Radio Azattyk publication of December 9, 2020, titled «Verny Capital» informs: restrictions been lifted off Bulat Utemuratov’s assets« (text in bold hereinafter by

«Verny Capital« group of companies said on Wednesday, December 9, that the UK court order to impose restrictions on the assets of the company’s key shareholder Bulat Utemuratov had been reversed. According to the company’s statement, it became possible after BTA Bank and Utemuratov’s representatives had signed an agreement under which the financial institute „assumed an obligation to abandon the claim“. 

Last month, based on BTA Bank’s request, the British court froze the assets of Utemuratov, the former Head of the Department of Presidential Affairs of the Republic of Kazakhstan, in the amount of 5 $ bln. In its claim, the financial institute stipulated that Utemuratov had been involved in hiding the stolen money. 

«The claim of BTA Bank against Bulat Utemuratov and his affiliated persons and companies has been abandoned on the basis of the agreement related to the presenting of the documents confirming Bulat Utemuratov’s and his affiliated parties’ noninvolvement in the money laundering case«, says the company’s statement. They informed that a part of the documents had been presented before the signing of the agreement.

BTA Bank’s official website does not contain information on the signing of the said agreement».

So, our forecast regarding the prospects of this case has been realised one hundred percent.

To confirm this, let us cite our publication of December 1, 2020, titled «On the Utemuratov Scandal».

«In our opinion, the said scandal will eventually die out since the UK attorneys working for BTA Bank JSC will simply call off the claim or a part of it.

We are not even sure that the individual people who have made „the mistake“ will be held responsible. Simply because the attorneys have straightforwardly used the documents received from the client. And they are not obligated to take into consideration Kazakhstan’s local political subtleties well-known to those who live in the country.

Nonetheless, there is likelihood that the Library and Akorda will be forced to respond to the scandal. And to punish those who are literally asking for being chosen as the scapegoat».

Among those who may be chosen as the scapegoat, we, first of all, have named Minister of Justice Marat Beketayev since it was he who had personally been handling the legal war against Mukhtar Abliyazov; second of all, we’ve named the current BTA Bank’s owner Kenes Rakishev who is formally responsible for the actions of the bank’s attorneys (on staff and freelance) operating in the country and abroad.

In our opinion, the fact that, so far, the Library and Akorda as well as Bulat Utemuratov, Marat Beketayev and Kenes Rakishev have been keeping silent does not mean that the case and the scandal it provoked have ended. Moreover, it may flare up again if the UK investigators (whether public of private) start researching the BTA case not from the date when Mukhtar Ablyazov became its chairman but from the moment when the bank started «pumping up» the capital (just as the other Kazakh banks had been actively doing prior to the 2008 crisis).

The thing is that the «pumping up» of BTA Bank was started by Erzhan Tatishev who, after Mukhtar Ablyazov’s 2002 arrest and conviction, had obtained complete control of the financial institute and handed over a big part of its shares to Bulat Utemuratov who was representing the interests of Nursultan Nazarbayev at the time. As a result of the «pumping» as well as of the extremely risky business-operations related to providing loans to affiliated structures including those belonging to Utemuratov and other allies and relatives of the future Elbasy, by the time of Tatishev’s tragic death, the bank had formed a big «hole» in the amount of about a billion dollars.

As BTA Bank’s co-owner, Nursultan Nazarbayev, through his representative Bulat Utemuratov, was well aware of the problem. It is for this reason that he allowed Mukhtar Ablyazov to return to the bank after Erzhan Tatishev’s death. In other words, he did not give back the bank to its former co-owner; he was saving his asset from the unavoidable bankruptcy.

What happened next is a matter of common knowledge, among other things, thanks to the activities of the Kazakh law-enforcement structures that had written their own version of the events. However, the story also has a dark side that deserves attentions not just on the part of historians but on the part of Kazakh and foreign investigators as well since, thanks to Akorda’s efforts, the case has now obtained the international status.

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