A former mayor of Kazakhstan’s largest city and his son may be on the hook for more than $280,000 for violating a confidentiality order in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit over embezzlement and money laundering that also allegedly involved purchases of condominiums at the luxury Trump Soho tower.
The fine is the latest development in a yearslong legal battle on three continents between Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank and its former chairman, Mukhtar Ablyazov, whom the bank accuses of stealing $4 billion. BTA said Ablyazov enlisted the help of his son-in-law, Ilyas Khrapunov, and Ilyas’s father Viktor, the former mayor of Almaty, Kazakhstan, to launder the money and hide the assets.
U.S. District Judge Katharine H. Parker imposed the penalties against Viktor and Ilyas earlier this month and upheld her prior ruling in an order filed Monday in Manhattan federal court. She concluded Ilyas posted the deposition of BTA’s current chairman, Kenes Rakishev, on a public file-sharing site in an attempt to use the material in a separate U.K. legal proceeding. The deposition was picked up by a Russian-language website.
Though the Khrapunovs denied leaking the material, Parker found Ilyas’s defense was "not credible," noting he was one of the few people with access to it and that he and his father had posted messages on Facebook saying they were preparing to question Rakishev and that friends should "stock up on popcorn."
The judge directed BTA’s lawyers at Boies Schiller Flexner LLP to calculate their time and costs in researching the leak as part of the penalty. The firm concluded the billing amounted to $281,069.30.
"We are pleased that the court has recognized that Ilyas Khrapunov is playing games, and that it has once again found that the defendants in this case are not credible," Boies Schiller’s Matthew L. Schwartz said in a statement.
John Kenney of Hoguet Newman Regal & Kenney LLP, a lawyer for the Khrapunovs, declined to comment on the ruling.
The Trump organization hasn’t been accused of wrongdoing in the case and said it wasn’t involved in the sale of units at Trump Soho, which was re-branded as The Dominick in December.
BTA Bank won judgments in London that directed Ablyazov to disgorge more than $4 billion in holdings. A Kazakh court convicted him in 2017 in absentia for financial crimes and sentenced him to 20 years, and he’s wanted by prosecutors in Russia and Ukraine. Ablyazov has denied wrongdoing and claims he’s being persecuted for opposing the regime of Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
The case is City of Almaty, Kazakhstan v. Ablyazov, 15-cv-5345, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
Bloomberg, 28 March 2018