Tatyana Paraskevich case: former colleague of opposition politician, Mukhtar Ablyazov seeks political asylum in the Czech Republic
A decision was ratified by a Czech court to extradite Tatyana Paraskevich, former colleague of Kazakhstan opposition politician, Mukhtar Ablyazov to Ukraine. Tatyana Paraskevich’s expulsion was also demanded by the Russian Federation. In both these countries, Tatyana Paraskevich faces the risk of unfair trial and ill-treatment. The barristers continue to underline the political air to the case, as well as the interest in Tatyana Paraskevich’s expulsion by the Kazakhstan secret services, hoping to extract from her a testimony to incriminate Mukhtar Ablyazov.
UKRAINIAN AND RUSSIAN INVESTIGATING AUTHORITIES DEMANDING THE EXTRADITION OF FORMER COLLEAGUE OF OPPOSITION POLITICIAN: MUKHTAR ABLYAZOV
On 12.05.2012 in Karlove Vary, Czech Republic, a Russian citizen, the former co-worker of the Kazakhstan opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyzaov, ex-head of financial management board of ‘Eurasia Investment and Industrial Group’, Tatyana Paraskevich, was detained. On 10.04.2012 and 21.01.2013, Ukraine and the Russian Federation respectively, issued an internationalarrest warrant for Tatyana Paraskevich. She faces charges of embezzlement and misappropriation of funds on a grand scale or as part of an organised criminal group. On 07.06.2012, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine submitted a notion to the Ministry of Justice of the Czech Republic with a request for Tatyana Paraskevich’s extradition.
On 05.10.2012 and 02.01.2013, the Plzen court made a ruling on the inadmissibility of Tatyana Paraskevich’s extradition to Ukraine due to repetitive violations by the Ukrainian law enforcement and its judiciary authorities of the European Human Rights Convention, predominantly Article 3 (Outlawing torture) and Article 6 (Right to a fair trial).
Despite that, on 21.02.2013 the Supreme Court in Prague (the Czech Republic) ratified the decision of Tatyana Paraskevich’s extradition to Ukraine. The court ruled that the Ukrainian Prosecutor General had presented sufficient warranties for Tatyana Paraskevich’s rights to be observed during her stay in the Ukrainian detention facilities. According to the latter’s legal counsel, Marina Makhitkova, such warranties are inadmissible in view of the deteriorating human rights situation in Ukraine. At the same time, the Czech Republic Embassy in Ukraine stated that they had no idea how the Czech Republic were to control the execution of the warranties of the Ukrainian side with respect to Tatyana Paraskevich, as at that point, there had been no respective positive statement in the bilateral relations. On 30.05.2013, the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic rejected the appeal by Tatyana Paraskevich’s barristers on the decision regarding her extradition to Ukraine. The barristers are now preparing a complaint to be lodged with the European Court of Human Rights.
On 14.06.2013, the Russian Federation Prosecutor General submitted a request to the Czech Republic Minister of Justice, demanding the extradition of Tatyana Paraskevich. It is now up to the Czech investigating authorities to decide as to how this legal collision would be best resolved, as Tatyana Paraskevich’s extradition is now being formally requested by two countries – Ukraine and the Russian Federation.
The barrister presumes that the Czech court is soon to announce its ruling on the admissibility of Tatyana Paraskevich’s extradition to the Russian Federation. It is as of yet, unknown when the final court session will be held. After the ruling is pronounced, the extradition requests from Ukraine and the Russian Federation are to be reviewed by the Czech Republic Minister of Justice, who is to make the final decision on Tatyana Paraskevich’s expulsion.
Since 12.05.2012, Tatyana Paraskevich has remained in temporary detention in Plzen. On 09.04.2013, she submitted her request for political asylum in the Czech Republic.The request is currently under review by the Ministry of Interior. As long as the asylum procedure application is being considered, the Minister of Justice may not issue a decision of Tatyana Paraskevich’s extradition. On 13.08.2013, the Constitutional Court of the Czech Republic issued a statement pertaining to the principle of non-refoulement, according to which the Minister of Justice is to take the decision on the admissibility or inadmissibility of a person’s extradition to a third country only after the said person’s application for political asylum is examined and decided upon, whereas – should the political asylum application be accepted – the said person’s extradition would not be possible.
CRIMINAL CASE AGAINST TATYANA PARASKEVICH LAUNCHED UPON CHARGES WHICH MAY BE SEEN AS POLITICALLY MOTIVATED
Ukrainian and Russian procesutor’s offices launched their cases against Tatyana Paraskevich according to largely identical indictments, accusing her of financial crimes commited in collusion with Mukhtar Ablyazov, former chairman of the supervisory board of BTA Bank (Kazakhstan). Kazakhstan has remained in close collaboration with the Ukrainian and Russian investigating authorities whilst carrying out investigations.
If the Ukrainian and Russian investigating authorities are to be believed, Mukhtar Ablyazov, being in 2008 the chairman of the supervisory board of BTA Bank, formed in the territories of Ukraine and the Russian Federation an organised criminal group (OCG), comprising – amongst others - Tatyana Paraskevich, Aleksandr Udovenko, Roman Solodchenko, Igor Kononko. According to the Ukrainian Prosecutor General, yet another member of the OCG was Syrym Shalabayev, whereas the Russian prosecutors claim that in the Russian Federation the OCG also included Anatoliy Yereshchenko, Artur Trofimov, Aleksandr Volkov, Artyom Bondarenko, Denis Vorotyntsev, Aleksey Belov, ”as well as other unidentified members of the OCG”. The persons listed above all held managerial posts in BTA Bank and represented the interests of companies owned by Mukhtar Ablyazov, being at the same time clients of BTA Bank.
It should be noted that the prosecutor generals of Ukraine and the Russian Federation have launched criminal cases against the former management and co-workers of BTA Bank based on a similar criminal case, launched against the former BTA Bank head Mukhtar Ablyazov. Kazakhstan Prosecutor General charged Mukhtar Ablyazov and his colleagues with embezzlement of BTA Bank assets after the aggravation of the political conflict between he and President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Tatyana Paraskevich faces charges according to which she, together with other members of OCG and under the pretence of acquiring credit, participated in transactions which benefitted companies under the guidance of Mukhtar Ablyazov. The Ukrainian investigating authorities claim the OCG embezzled 167 180 000 US dollars. According to the Russian prosecutors, the OCG managed to misappropriate approximately 3.3bn US dollars in the Russian Federation. The Russian investigating authorities claim that Tatyana Paraskevich stored the OCG money as well as the funds obtained from criminal activity; moreover,on direct orders from Mukhtar Ablyazov she allegedly distributed the funds, took part in drafting the OCG masterplans, controlled the transfer of money to companies registered in offshore countries and monitored their further flow. According to the charges levied against them, Tatyana Paraskevich and other OCG members legalised the funds embezzled by concluding transactions on real estate and land acquisition.
The defence drew attention to the fact that the Ukrainian investigating authorities have no access to the original documents on which the charges are based. Amongst other things, doubt is raised by the credibility of evidence on the Ukrainian side due to the fact that it was presented by unknown persons in Kiev, and their expertise conducted by prosecutor general of Kazakhstan. Moreover, the barristers underline the fact that neither Ukraine, nor the Russian Federation, but rather the Kazakhstan BTA Bank seems to be the party wronged. It is, however, unknown whether the Prosecutor General of Kazakhstan levied any charges against Tatyana Paraskevich.
On 25.03.2013, the Kiev barrister, Evgeniy Pugachev stated that criminal prosecution of Tatyana Paraskevich had been initiated “ in the absence of any reasonable grounds whatsoever and aimed at resolution of political and economic issues related to Ablyazov M.K.” in order to extract incriminating testimony against him. The criminal case, having most likely been pre-ordered, is testified by words of Roman Marchenko, legal counsel at ‘Ilyashev & Partners’ law firm, representing the interests of BTA Bank in Ukraine, who, on 11.09.2010, delivered the following information to the head office of BTA Bank: “It is with satisfaction that I may inform that we have been able to move our investigators dealing with M. Ablyazov... The leitmotiff used was OCG Ablyazov, Zharimbetov and co.” Roman Marchenko also stated: “In our country [i.e. Ukraine] a legal opinion means far less than a political wish”.
EXTRADITION TO UKRAINE OR THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION – A THREAT TO PRISONER’S LIFE AND WELL-BEING
Amnesty International of the Czech Republic and the Czech Helsinki Committee issued statements condemning Tatyana Paraskevich’s extradition to Ukraine – the country, where the frequency of torturę being used by police is on the increase annually. The 2013 report by Amnesty International notes that in Ukraine, use of torture and ill-treatment “continue unabated and unchecked”. According to data by Ministry of Interior, in 2010 there were 40 deaths recorded amongst detained persons. Human rights activists claim that in 2010 there were up to 790 thousand persons in Ukraine who suffered torture or other ill-treatment at the hands of law enforcement bodies, whereas in 2011 over a milion citizens fell victim to police violence. Ukraine disregarded the UN Council for Human Rights recommendation for the creation of an independent authority to investigate the cases of torturę being used by the police.
Meanwhile, in Russia the case of Tatyana Paraskevich is run by the same investigators who led the ‘Magnistky case’. Nikolay Budilo is now leading the Tatyana Paraskevich case. Nikolay Budilo is featured on the list of persons sanctioned in the USA visa regime due to the ‘Magnitsky Act’. The Czech journalist Ondrej Golis revealed that one of the Russian investigators in Plzen openly threatened the barrister Marina Makhitkova, saying that if the latter were in Russia, he would have her jailed. According to a military expert, the former head of the Czech intelligence, Andor Szandor, the Czech Republic is entering the Russian sphere of influence, and the Russian Federation has been actively trying to shape public opinion and lobby its interests among the political elite.
The barristers are also concerned about the possibility of Tatyana Paraskevich being abducted by the Kazakhstan secret service, if she were to be extradited to Ukraine or the Russian Federation. Over recent years, Kazakh secret services have repeatedly made threats and assassination attempts against oppositionists as well as civil activists in the former Soviet countries. The most notorious examples being the attempted assassination of Petr Svoik in Bishkek on 01.12.1997; assassination attempt on ex-officials Alnur Musayev and Rakhat Aliyev in Vienna on 25.09.2008; surveillance of the ‘Golos Respubliki’ newspaper editor Daniyar Moldashev in Moscow in March 2011; abduction attempt of the oppositionist, Aynur Kurmanov in Moscow on 15.12.2012.
Rachel Denber, deputy director of the Europe and Central Asia division for Human Rights Watch, notes: “There are a number of examples of people seeking refuge in Ukraine simply vanishing without a trace. For example, the story of Leonida Rozvozzhayev: Whilst he was awaiting a decision on his application for political asylum, he was simply abducted from Ukraine and somehow he resurfaced some days later in Russia, where he had been wanted by investigators. After the case of Leonid Razvozzhayev had gathered wide acclaim, on 25.10.2012 the representative of Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated that the abduction did take place, but “the case is not a criminal one, rather an issue of cooperation between the law enforcement organs, of which I am not acquainted with”.
The case of Tatyana Paraskevich should be regarded as ‘politically motivated’ and ordered by the authorities of Kazakhstan, who are genuinely interested in her extradition to either Ukraine or the Russian Federation. Due to the close collaboration of the investigating authorities of Russia and Kazakhstan, there will most likely be a possibility of pressure being exerted on Tatyana Paraskevich for her to make an incriminating testimony against Mukhtar Ablyazov, the main political opponent of the regime.
It was to this end that over the past six months the authorities of Kazakhstan have doubled their efforts to apprehend the former partners and allies of Mukhtar Ablyazov across Europe. During the night 31.05.2013 to 01.06.2013, a private jet flew the unlawfully-deported Alma Shalabayeva, wife of Mukhtar Ablyazov, together with her daughter of 6, to Kazakhstan. The deportation conducted in an extraordinary manner almost resulted in a political crisis in Italy. At present, the procedure of reviewing political asylum is underway for the following: Muratbek Ketebayev, opposition politician; Aleksander Pavlov, former Mukhtar Ablyzov head of security; Zaure Akpenbetova, former employee of companies belonging to Mukhtar Ablyazov. Kazakhstan has been demanding their expulsion, as all of them are an important source of information on the oppositionist Mukhtar Ablyazov. In January 2012, political asylum was granted to Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov and Roman Solodchenko in the UK , former business partners of Mukhtar Ablyazov, who – similarly to Tatyana Paraskevich – are implicated in the case of alleged embezzlement of BTA Bank assets.
The Open Dialog Foundation appeals to the Ministry of Interior of the Czech Republic to grant political asylum to Tatyana Paraskevich, bearing in mind the fact that the criminal cases against her were launched on the basis of unclear, fabricated allegations, which may well be proven to be politically motivated.
Gravely concerned by the likelihood of Tatyana Paraskevich facing an unfair trial at court and ill-treatment from the law enforcement organs should she be extradited to Ukraine or the Russian Federation, we have appealed to the acting Minister of Justice of the Czech Republic, Maria Benešova for Tatyana Paraskevich’s expulsion to be rejected to. We underline the importance of Article 3 of United Nations Charter against the use of torture, forbidding the expulsion of persons to countries where the detained may face torture (in the present case, such countries being Ukraine and the Russian Federation). The UN convention on Refugees (art. 33) also protects one from expulsion, should the person expelled be at risk of persecution due to political beliefs.
The Open Dialog Foundation also considers it vital for the Czech Government Envoy for Human Rights, Monika Šimunkova to defend Tatyana Paraskevich in her capacity as the adviser to Minister of Justice of the Czech Republic taking the latter’s decision on the extradition.
Anyone interested in providing assistance are kindly asked to send their letters supporting our plea to the following addresses:
- Tomas Haisman, Head of Refugee Affairs and Migration Policy, Ministry of Interior of the Czech Republic - Nad Štolou 936/3, postal code 170 34, Praha 7. Tel. +420 974 832 495, +420 974 832 502, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Marie Benešova, acting Minister of Justice of the Czech Republic: 16 Vyšehradská Street, region Praha 2, city of Prague, postal code 128 10, tel. +420 221 997 106, +420 221 997 111, fax: +420 224 919 927, e-mail: email@example.com
- Monika Šimunkova, Czech Government Envoy for Human Rights- 4 Edvarda Beneše boulevard, Praha 1, PSČ 118 01, tel. +420 224 002 111, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jan Kohout, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic - Loretánské náměstí 5, 118 00 Praha 1, tel. +420 224 181 111, e-mail: email@example.com