Among the huge spectrum of international figures brought low by the Panama Papers document leak is the grandson of Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
In a highly detailed account published on April 4, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project reveals that Nurali Aliyev’s offshore interests included two companies registered in the British Virgin Islands. The 31-year even had a 23-meter-long pleasure yacht registered in the BVI, although alas for the presidential grandson, he never did get to sail the seas on the ill-fated vessel.
As OCCRP remarked with relish, the revelations are particularly egregious considering how Nazarbayev has, like his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, pontificated in the past against the practice of salting away riches in offshore jurisdictions.
“You shouldn’t hide your money somewhere over the hill. Keep it here. Just look, all these offshore being opened up over the hill, they are going to shame everybody,” Nazarbayev prophesied, accurately as it turned out, in 2013. “If you make money, keep it in Kazakhstan. Live here, build a future for your children here
OCCRP’s account begins in September 2014, when BVI-registered company Alba International Holdings, whose only business was listed as “[holding] a bank account in Cyprus,” was recorded as getting a new owner, another BVI company called Invigorate Group Ltd. Although little is known about either company other than that, data in the files obtained by the OCCRP offer up one useful little nugget.
“The Alba International file ... includes information on its ultimate beneficial owner, the person who actually owns the company. From the name, date of birth and photo provided in the files, it is clearly Nazarbayev’s grandson,” the organization found.
Exactly three months after the re-registration of Alba International, Aliyev was named deputy mayor of Kazakhstan’s capital, Astana, a post he suddenly and mysteriously abandoned on March 16. That appears to have prompted Mossack Fonseca, the Panama-based legal company from whom all these documents were leaked and which has made a name for itself by assisting all and dundry in creating offshore companies, to require an “enhanced due diligence process.”
There are other threads tying Alba International to Aliyev.
The company is officially headed by a Kazakh national based in Dubai, Askar Tarabayev. As OCCRP found, the 33-year old in 2013 served as joint director of a UK-registered company Finesse Executive Ltd together with another citizen of Kazakhstan, Mukhamed-Ali Kurmanbayev.
Kurmanbayev is identified as occupying positions in several British and BVI companies ultimately controlled by Aliyev.
Tarabayev has no public profile to speak of, although OCCRP revealed that his father has had a previous run-in with Kazakhstan’s justice system. In 2011, Baltash Tarabayev was charged with trying to extort a bribe in the form of a $170,000 apartment while acting a deputy head of the state-owned Agrarian Credit Corporation. Tarabayev has since been partially rehabilitated and is employed as an associated professor at the Kazakh Agrotechnical University in Astana.
And then there’s the yacht.
In April 2008, a 23-meter long motorboat (later insured for $2.26 million) was bought by BVI company Baltimore Alliance Inc, whose shareholders include Nurali Aliyev. The Mossack Fonseca paperwork allegedly proves Aliyev even picked the name for the pleasure yacht, Nomad.
The weather was not as cooperative as the BVI authorities, however. A cargo ship carrying Nomad was hit by stormy conditions in the Mediterranean as it made its way from Genoa to the United Arab Emirates, causing the yacht’s cradle to collapse, causing substantial damage.
During the various legal disputes that ensued, Aliyev appears to have rid himself of his shares in Baltimore Alliance by transferring to another BVI company, Schneider System Ltd. The other 10,111 shares were consolidated in Baltimore Alliance’s largest minority shareholder, yet another Aliyev-linked BVI company, called Greatex Trade and Invest Corp.
This latter company has a portfolio, according to a recent Global Witness investigation, that encompasses $212 million worth of London property.
OCCRP suggested this move might have been purely tactical and aimed at covering Aliyev’s tracks.
“A possible explanation for the move could be that around the same time, Aliyev assumed the official state job at the Development Bank of Kazakhstan and may have sought to keep his name from coming out in a lawsuit regarding the yacht,” the OCCRP said in its report.
Aliyev offloaded the yacht in 2011, selling it back to its manufacturer for “one [British pound sterling] and other considerations, free of any debts, charges, liens, mortgages.”