Tue, 01 Dec 2020

A former banker from Kazakhstan has been sentenced to 11 years in prison on embezzlement charges.

A court in Almaty on November 16 found Zhomart Ertaev guilty of stealing $334 million from RBK Bank and also ruled that all his property must be confiscated.

Ertaev was co-chairman of RBK, which Moody's Investors Service last year ranked as the 11th-largest bank in the Central Asian country. He had previously served in senior positions at Kazakh banks throughout the 2000s.

Police in the Russian capital, Moscow, arrested Ertaev in May 2018 at Kazakhstan's request and placed the fugitive oligarch under house arrest.

Russian media reported earlier that Ertaev chaired Troyka-D Bank in Moscow and was an honorary president of Alma Group, an investment company based at the Moskva-Citi business complex.

He had reportedly been living in Russia for a few years.

Ertaev's lawyers have said their client renounced his Kazakh citizenship and asked for political asylum in Russia, arguing he could be killed if returned to Kazakhstan.

In March 2019, Russia extradited Ertaev to Kazakhstan, where he was placed in pretrial detention.

In 2009, Ertaev spent nine months in pretrial detention on suspicion of embezzlement, but was released after a court dropped those charges.

Ertaev was found guilty, however, on lesser charges of misusing bank funds and violating accounting regulations. He was employed at Kazakstan's Eurasian Bank at the time.

The court ordered his release on grounds that his nine months in pretrial detention was sufficient punishment.

Profits at Kazakh banks surged during the 2000s amid fast economic growth driven by high oil prices, enabling bankers to easily hide large-scale fraud.

When the global economy began to collapse at the end of the 2008 and a string of Kazakh banks filed for bankruptcy, the fraud became evident and some bankers were arrested while others fled the country.

With reporting by KazTAG and Tengrinews

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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