(SRI) - The High Court in London has sentenced Syrym Shalabayev, brother-in-law of ex-BTA Bank head Mukhtar Ablyazov, to 18 months in prison in connection with allegations of a multi-billion dollar fraud at the Kazakh bank.
Shalabayev, whose whereabouts are unknown, has been found in contempt of court for failing to reveal his assets or cooperate in the case, Justice Michael Briggs ruled on Monday at the London court.
BTA earlier presented the court with evidence of Shalabayev's alleged involvement in fraudulent schemes that cost the bank hundreds of millions of dollars and evidence that Shalabayev helped create false documents to hide Ablyazov's ties to the entities.
According to Monday' ruling, Shalabayev received two 18-month sentences to run concurrently, and a conditional six month sentence if he continues to fail to comply with court orders.
"This is a very serious case of total non-compliance," Briggs said in his ruling. "It's a case where the claimants continue to have a pressing need for Shalabayev to comply."
While Shalabayev was not present at the court hearing, Ablyazov argued that he had no contact with his brother-in-law, despite evidence of email correspondence by BTA's lawyers. BTA also claims that Ablyazov violated a freezing order of the London court by hiding some of his assets, which have secretly been administered by Shalabayev.
Ablyazov himself is facing embezzlement charges in the UK. The current management of BTA, which had been taken over by the state-owned holding and investment company Samruk-Kazyna, claims that Ablyazov and his accomplices stole billions of dollars from the once largest bank in Kazakhstan, leaving it on the verge of bankruptcy.
BTA has brought multiple fraud charges against Ablyazov and his accomplices in British and Russian courts. In Russia, Ablyazov has been charged on four counts of financial crime, and a warrant for his arrest has been issued.
In Kazakhstan, the Prosecutor General's Office (PGO) filed 90 charges against the former chairman of BTA Bank and is seeking recovery of $7.5 billion. The PGO has also requested Ablyazov's extradition to Kazakhstan from the UK.
BTA became the largest lender in Kazakhstan to default on its debt in April 2009, shortly after the Kazakh government had taken over the bank, amid allegations of fraud, embezzlement and political revenge. In September 2010, the bank completed the largest ever emerging markets debt restructuring, reducing its $16.7-billion debt to $4.2 billion.