Former billionaire Mukhtar Ablyazov, who fled what was the biggest ever fraud case to be heard in the UK, has been ordered by a French court to be extradited.
Mr Ablyazov skipped Britain in 2012 after being sentenced to prison for contempt of court.
After going on the run for over a year, he was eventually tracked down by private investigators who tailed a friend to a villa in which he was hiding near Cannes in the South of France. The investigators tipped off the police and Mr Ablyazov was arrested in a dramatic raid by special forces.
Since then, with the help of a high-profile campaign by his photogenic wife and daughter, he has been fighting extradition to Russia and Ukraine.
Mr Ablyazov is accused of having embezzled up to $6bn (£4bn) from the Kazakhstan bank BTA, where he was chairman and a majority shareholder.
The former Kazakh government minister denies the claims, saying he is being hounded for political reasons due to his opposition to President Nursultan Nazarbayev. His wife Alma claims he will be sent to Kazakhstan and be killed if he is extradited.
Today’s decision by France’s Cour de Cassation rejected an appeal by Mr Ablyazov and upheld a ruling by a lower court that approved the extradition. France does not have an extradition treaty with Kazakhstan, which wants to put Mr Ablyazov on trial, but it does have such deals with Russia and Ukraine.
“I am extremely disappointed because I think there is a real problem if Mr Ablyazov is sent back to Russia or Ukraine,” Mr Ablyazov’s lawyer Claire Waquet said.
Under French law, the extradition must next be approved by governmental decree.
Multi-billion-dollar black holes were found in BTA’s accounts in 2009 and the bank was nationalised with huge losses for lenders around the world including Britain’s RBS, Barclays, Standard Chartered and HSBC.
BTA’s receivers pursued his assets in the London High Court, seizing among others, his Carlton House mansion in London’s billionaire’s row of The Bishop’s Avenue.
In a bizarre twist to the case, his wife Alma herself was controversially deported from Italy two years ago with her daughter Alua after police hunting Mr Ablayazov found them travelling on fake Central African Republic passports. Alma and Madina claim that was a kidnapping, not a deportation, and say the CAR passports were genuine.