Lawsuits filed by state-controlled BTA Bank, Kazakhstan’s largest lender, to recover 917 million tenge ($6 million) from a newspaper and a charity have so far yielded nothing but seven pairs of boxer shorts.
BTA, which defaulted on more than $12 billion of debts after the state took over the bank in February, sued the newspaper Respublika for 80 million tenge after it published a story that allegedly resulted in customers removing 6 billion tenge from the bank, according to the newspaper. BTA also sued the Alem Art foundation to recover an 837 million tenge donation made by the bank’s former management, according to Alem.
In response, artist Kanat Ibragimov and Respublika reporters tried to send seven pair of underwear to BTA’s Chief Executive Officer Anvar Saidenov and Chairman Arman Dunayev, Respublika reported. “I’m sending them my underwear in a desperate gesture during this time of blatant reactionism after a decade of peaceful life in Kazakhstan,” Ibragimov said by telephone today in Almaty.
BTA said the attempt to deliver the underwear to two BTA branches in Almaty yesterday was an act of hooliganism. “A group of unknown young people drew attention to themselves with aggressive, offensive behavior and tried to hinder the work of the bank branches,” BTA said in a statement.
The bank promised a “tough” response to any “illegal actions aimed at blocking the work of the bank.”
Ibragimov and others collected the underwear during a street performance last week.
The government’s National Wellbeing Fund Samruk-Kazyna, which is overseeing a bailout of Kazakh banks, bought 75.1 percent of BTA in February. The lender stopped making principal payments on its debt in April after creditors demanded immediate repayment.
BTA wants to persuade creditors to settle for between 20 percent and 45 percent of what they’re owed, including trade financing, and as little as between 3 percent and 34 percent without trade financing. BTA has said it needs to restructure more than $12 billion in debt.
“It’s absurd for BTA to ask Alem Art to repay money that it received from the bank to support Kazakh cultural projects,” foundation President Daniyar Shabdukarimov said by telephone. A Kazakh court upheld BTA’s suit against Alem Art, finding that the donation was illegal, he said.
Alem Art was founded in 2006 “at the initiative of BTA Bank’s management” to promote Kazakh culture abroad. The foundation sponsors art projects including music, theater and literature, according to the foundation’s Web site.
Adil Dosymov, a BTA spokesman, declined to comment when contacted by telephone.
Kazakh prosecutors issued international arrest warrants for former BTA Bank Chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov and former CEO Roman Solodchenko in March on suspicion that they embezzled money from BTA and laundered it through loans to fictitious companies. Ablyazov and Solodchenko have denied the charges.
Yegvenia Plakhina, a Respublika reporter, said the underpants will be sent to Saidenov and Dunayev by mail.
Ibragimov said the BTA suit against Alem Art is “an assault on Kazakhstan’s freedom-loving spirit and nomadic tradition,” adding that he received no money from the foundation.
“The only thing left for artists whom the government’s actions have deprived of hope is to take off their underpants,” he said.