Seven senior former Italian police and immigration officials have received prison sentences for their roles in the "unlawful" deportation of the wife and daughter of fugitive Kazakh banker and opposition organizer politician Mukhtar Ablyazov seven years ago.
A court in the central Italian city of Perugia on October 14 sentenced a former chief commissioner and other ex-commanders, a judge, and the onetime head of the immigration office in the capital, to prison terms of between 2 1/2 and five years. Ablyazov has been accused by Kazakh authorities of embezzling billions during his tenure at one of that post-Soviet country's biggest banks in a case that he and his supporters say is politically motivated. He has resided in Europe for more than a decade. Ablyazov's wife, Alma Shalabaeva, and the couple's 6-year-old daughter Alua were taken into custody in an Italian raid in 2013 and forcibly returned to Kazakhstan in a case that sparked public outrage. Kazakh authorities allowed Shalabaeva and her daughter to return to Italy six months later following appeals by the Italian government, and they were eventually granted refugee status. In mid-2014, an Italian high court ruled that the deportations were "manifestly illegitimate."
Ablyazov, a former CEO of BTA bank, has reportedly continued to organize activities in Kazakhstan for his Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan movement, including protest rallies throughout the country.
Late last month, a French court granted Ablyazov asylum in a ruling that cited "obvious attempts by outside agents to exert influence on the asylum authorities." Earlier this month, Ablyazov was charged in Paris with embezzling $7.5 billion before BTA's nationalization in a case brought by Kazakhstan, according to one of his lawyers.