22 months for contempt

Posted: 7th November 2012

In one of the most costly and wide-ranging cases ever to be litigated in the English courts, a businessman accused of ‘looting’ US$5 billion from a major Kazakhstan bank of which he was chairman has failed to overturn a judge’s order committing him to prison for contempt of an asset-freezing injunction.RCJ

Mukhtar Ablyazov disputes allegations that, when chairman of JSC BTA Bank, he conspired to make fraudulent loans to companies in which he had an interest. The bank alleges that it was brought to its knees by Mr Ablyazov’s actions; however he asserts that the claims against him are an unjustified, politically-motivated, attempt to victimise and destroy him.

In the course of numerous preliminary hearings in the case, a finding of contempt was made against Mr Ablyazov and he was committed to prison for 22 months. An ‘unless’ order, directing that he be debarred from defending the various actions unless he surrenders to custody and fully discloses all his assets and his dealings with them, was also made against him.

Dismissing Mr Ablyazov’s appeal against those orders, the Court of Appeal has ruled that they were justified in the light of his conduct during the litigation. Lord Justice Maurice Kay, sitting with Lords Justice Rix and Toulson, said: ‘It is difficult to imagine a party to commercial litigation who has acted with more cynicism, opportunism and deviousness towards court orders than Mr Ablyazov.’ The orders had been stayed pending the outcome of Mr Ablyazov’s appeal but will now be implemented.