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The case of Artur Trofimov: political persecution of an ally of the Kazakh opposition


Artur Trofimov is accused in a Russian criminal case
against Kazakh opposition politician Mukhtar Ablyazov. As in the case of
Tatiana Paraskevich and Ablyazov himself, Kazakhstan is striving to get
Trofimov through a Russian extradition request. Austria refused to extradite
Trofimov to Russia and granted him additional protection. However, within the
framework of international cooperation in the field of criminal investigation,
Austrian prosecutor’s office opened a case on Trofimov and is considering the
charges brought by the Russian investigation agency.
 To Russia and
Kazakhstan, Trofimov is an important source of information about the activities
of oppositionist Mukhtar Ablyazov. In their attempts to gain access to
Trofimov, Kazakh and Russian authorities use the same methods which were used
against Tatiana Paraskevich and other colleagues of Ablyazov. The methods
include nonprocedural cooperation between the Kazakh side and the Russian
investigators; violations by investigators and judges, included in the
‘Magnitsky list’;pressure exerted by secret services; forgery of documentation
held by investigators; attempts to negotiate with the accused to persuade him
to testify against Mukhtar Ablyazov in exchange for closure of criminal cases.


On 28 October, 2011, Russia issued an
international arrest warrant for Artur Trofimov on charges of fraud in
collusion with Mukhtar Ablyazov. According to the Russian investigators,
Trofimov was involved in improper lending to companies in the Seychelles,
causing a loss to the Kazakh BTA Bank in the amount of $ 731,080,416. On 22
October, 2012, Trofimov applied for political asylum in Austria, but soon
after, on 23 November, 2012, he was arrested by Austrian police on the basis of
Russia’s extradition request. On 22 February, 2013, Trofimov was released from
custody on bail.


On 4
December, 2013, the Federal Office for Refugees granted Trofimov additional
protection in accordance with the Austrian Law on the Status of Refugees
-, although this protection doesn’t entitle him
to be recognised as a refugee.
 Additional protection is only valid on the territory of
Austria. The status entitles the person concerned to receive the
permission for stay in Austria; in the case of Trofimov, the permission has
been extended until 4 December 2016.Trofimov is currently seeking full asylum


On 28
January, 2014, the Land Criminal Court of Vienna, citing Trofimov’s additional
protection status, rejected Russia’s request for his extradition.


In accordance with paragraph 65 of the
Criminal Code and under the agreement on mutual legal assistance between
Austria and Russia, the Austrian authorities should conduct their own
investigation into the charges levied against a person who they refused to
extradited. Therefore, on 15 October, 2014, based on Russia’s accusations,
the Austrian Central Prosecutor’s Office for criminal cases in the field of
economy and corruption opened a case against Artur Trofimov under Article 153
of the Criminal Code of Austria (‘breach of trust’) and Article 278 of the
Criminal Code of Austria (‘criminal association’). The case is under
preliminary investigation. Trofimov is fully cooperating with the prosecutor’s


Russian and Kazakh authorities need Artur Trofimov as
an important source of information in the case of Mukhtar Ablyazov


Over many years, the citizen of the
Russian Federation, Artur Trofimov has been a colleague of the Kazakh
opposition politician, Mukhtar Ablyazov – the main opponent of the current
Kazakh regime and a personal enemy of President Nursultan Nazarbayev.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, International Federation for Human Rights,the League of Human Rights in France and more than a
dozen Ukrainian and Russian human rights organisations
have repeatedly reported on the
political nature of Mukhtar Ablyazov’s case. 
Several members of PACE and MEPs protested against
Ablyazov’s possible extradition from France

Human rights activists have
repeatedly noted that the increasingly frequent cases of persecution of Mukhtar
Ablyazov’s family and assiciates in Europe indicate the existence of a
political order from the Kazakh authorities. Ablyazov holds refugee status
in the UK and his partners and family members have been granted political
asylum in Poland (Muratbek Ketebaev), Italy (Alma Shalabayeva and Alua
Ablyazova), the Czech Republic (Tatiana Paraskevich) and the United Kingdom
(Zhaksylyk Zharimbetov and Roman Solodchenko).

In Russia, Artur Trofimov is connected
to the same criminal case as Mukhtar Ablyazov and his colleague Tatiana
Paraskevich. The Czech Republic granted Paraskevich international protection
and refused to extradite her to Ukraine or Russia. 
Amnesty International stated
that Paraskevich could face rendering from Ukraine and Russia to Kazakhstan,
torture and unfair trials ‘due to her links with the Kazakh oppositionist
Mukhtar Ablyazov’.

Russian human rights organisation ‘Memorial’, the
All-Russian Civil Movement ‘For Human Rights’, the renowned lawyer, Mark
Feigin, and the Kazakh theatre director and social activist Bulat Atabayev
expressed their support for Artur
Trofimov and urged the Austrian authorities to grant him political asylum, as
the criminal case has a clear political nature and serves Kazakhstan and Russia
as a means of obtaining ‘convenient’ evidence against Mukhtar Ablyazov.

The publicising of the evidence of corrupt cooperation
between Kazakhstan and the Russian and Ukrainian investigative agencies in the
criminal case against Ablyazov and his colleagues
caused significant reverberations.
On the basis of this evidence, 
the High Court in London refused to extradite Ablyazov’s
ally, Igor Kononko, to Ukraine.

According to Muratbek Ketebayev (an
opposition politician and Ablyazov’s longtime associate, who was granted
political asylum in Poland), in June 2009, during a private meeting, 
addressed the
then Prime Minister Vladimir Putin with a request that the extradition of
Ablyazov from Europe be facilitated. Negotiations were formally documented with
a protocol, and Putin gave adequate instructions to the Russian Interior
Ministry. Muratbek Ketebayev also published a document, according to which
one of the leaders of the Kazakh National Welfare Fund ‘Samruk-Kazyna’, Umirzak
Shukeyev reported the results of the talks with the Russian side regarding
Ablyazov’s case to the administration of the Kazakh president.

According to the published information,
on 5 November, 2013, Russian presidential aide, Yevgeniy Shkolov assured the
Kazakh delegation that 
“the criminal prosecution of Mr. Ablyazov and his
associates will be subjected to special monitoring”.
Also, Shkolov supported the
proposals to “assign curators of the BTA Bank issue in the Supreme Arbitration
Court of the Russian Federation and the Federal Bailiff Service for the control
of court trials, provide an objective review, engage in decision-making, as
well as execute court orders in the Russian Federation”. The Russian side has
promised to provide “recognition by the Russian Federation of court
decisions, issued in the Republic of Kazakhstan” on the case of Ablyazov. At
the same time, it is indicated that the Russian Interior Ministry “has not
yet resolved the issue” of accusing Ablyazov and his associates of
“organising a criminal association”.

According to the
documents, published in the media, 
a lawyer Andrey Pavlov, one of the persons included in
the Magnitsky list, held consultations with the Russian investigation agency on
the case of Ablyazov and his associates.
 Journalists have revealed that Andrey
Pavlov is the director of the Russian consultancy company ‘Quorum Debt
Management’ and a representative of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank. And so,
 on the 5 and 6 September, 2013, Russian investigator
Nikolay Budilo sent to the representative of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank, Andrey
Pavlov, draft charges against Ablyazov and his colleagues
(also against Artur Trofimov). At the same time, the Russian investigator requested that
the representative on the Kazakh side verify the names of the companies, the
initials of those accused and specify the amount of damages inflicted.
In correspondence with Pavlov,
investigator Budilo signs his messages as follows: “Sincerely, your friend
and partner!”.

 Signs of the political
nature of the Trofimov case

Numerous incidents of procedural
violations and pressure applied to the defendants and witnesses confirm the
obvious political nature of the criminal case.


The investigation is carried out by
investigators from the ‘Magnitsky list’

As in the case with Ablyazov and Paraskevich, in Russia,
the case against Trofimov is carried out by investigators who are included in
the list of sanctions imposed in relation to the Magnitsky case.
head of the investigative team is currently Nikolay Budilo, whom the government
of Kazakhstan has awarded a pistol (CZ 75 B, 9mm Luger, No. 4880V). Also,
investigators Natalia Vinogradova and Oleg Urzhumtsev were engaged in the
criminal case against Ablyazov and Trofimov. The criminal investigation has
been supervised by Deputy General Prosecutor, Viktor Grin. According to the
lawyer, Mark Feigin, these people belong to the group of workers of law
enforcement and judicial bodies, which specialise in “the execution of
political instructions in order to eliminate persons, inconvenient to the
government, through the abuse of Russian law”.

In his statement, financier William
Browder cited details of the case of Sergey Magnitsky, and stressed that
persons included in the ‘Magnitsky list’ are engaged in the case of Trofimov:
“Given my own experience of persecution by these individuals, I believe
that Mr. Trofimov will meet the same fate as Sergei Magnitsky, if he is
extradited to Russia. Until the officials implicated in the Sergey Magnitsky
case face justice in accordance with the law, no objective investigation can
take place in Russia”. 
Earlier, the RussianFederation declared William Browder wanted,
but Interpol has recognised the request as politically motivated and dismissed

Pressure exerted on the defendants in order to
obtain incriminating evidence

According to counsel Andrey Krupenik,
investigator Nikolay Budilo offered Artur Trofimov a chance to “cooperate
with the investigation”, which meant defaming Ablyazov. In exchange,
Trofimov was promised a simplified procedure for the trial and a “more
lenient punishment”. 
The same “offer” was presented to another
defendant in the case, Tatiana Paraskevich.
 The human rights
organisation ‘Memorial‘ stated that the charges against Trofimov “are
based solely on the testimony of a small number of persons, collaborating with
the investigation. The practice of fabrication of prosecution evidence in
accordance with the same scheme is characteristic of Russian investigative
bodies in general, and especially for manifestly political cases“. The case of
Yelena Tishchenko, ex-lawyer of several Russian companies that have been in the
litigation against Kazakh BTA Bank in Russia, serves as a good example.


Russian investigators accused the lawyer Yelena Tishchenko
of money laundering in connection with the criminal case against Ablyazov and
 She was
detained in Moscow on 31 August, 2013, and subsequently arrested. While in a
detention facility, Tishchenko agreed to “cooperate with the
investigation”, and at the end of December 2013 she was amnestied, and BTA
Bank backed down from claims against her. On 10 October, 2013, 
while in the
Russian detention facility, Tishchenko addressed a letter to the General
Prosecutor of Kazakhstan, Askhat Daulbayev, expressing her willingness to
‘help’ the investigating authorities.
In November 2013, she was
interrogated by representatives of the Kazakh prosecutor’s office.


Special attention should be paid to the following excerpt
from the letter of the representative of BTA Bank, Andrey Pavlov to his
colleagues in Kazakhstan
: “During the talks with the leaders of
the 1st Department of the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Republic of
Kazakhstan on 22 November, 2013, 
Tishchenko gave details of Ablyazov’s illegal political
activity, his role in organising mass riots , inciting ethnic hatred in the
Republic of Kazakhstan, creating an atmosphere of intolerance towards people of
Kazakhstan in the Russian Federation, his procurement of weapons and military
equipment, also for the president of the Central African Republic”.

Efforts to bring about the arrest with the use
of illegal methods

On 18 March, 2010, the Interior
Ministry sent a request to the Border Guard of the Russian Federation for the
arrest of Trofimov. This requests specified that the investigator had filed a
motion with the court to arrest Trofimov. However, the document provided by the
counsels confirms that it was only on 8 November, 2011, that Investigator
P. Zhesterov filed a motion with the Tver District Court in Moscow to arrest
Trofimov. Thus, a warrant for the arrest of Trofimov had no legal basis at that
time. The decision to issues an international arrest warrant also arouses
suspicion. According to Trofimov, in June 2011, he gave the Russian police his
residential address and expressed his willingness to reply to correspondence.


Questionable decisions of the judges from the
‘Magnitsky list’

On 10 November, 2011, Artur Trofimov
was arrested in absentia by a Russian court. According to his counsels, on 9
November, 2011, Judge A. Kovalevskaya expressed her doubts over whether there
is sufficient evidence for an arrest in absentia. But the following day,
without explanation, Judge Kovalevskaya was replaced by another judge – Alexey
Krivoruchko, a person included in the ‘Magnitsky list’. For 28 days, the
management of the Tver District Court did not issue the minutes of the hearing
to the counsels, although this should have been done within 3 days. Perhaps the
minutes were compiled after the fact, as they contained gross errors (for
example, it stated that on 9 November, 2011, Trofimov was present in court,
even though he was abroad at that time). Other judges who presided over the
case against Trofimov and Ablyazov’s colleagues in Russia, and are also named
in the ‘Magnitsky list’, include: Sergey Podoprigorov, Yelena Stashina and
Svetlana Ukhnaleva.


Obstruction of legal practice

Dmitriy Kharitonov, the counsel of
Artur Trofimov, was not allowed to participate in the case within 6 months,
while he had all the necessary documents and permits. Also, Investigator Budilo
for a long time refused to admit to the case Ablyazov’s Russian counsel, Mark
Feigin. The same practice was applied by Ukrainian investigator Maksim Melnik,
who had previously been engaged in the case against Ablyazov in Ukraine.
Ablyazov’s defenders were given the opportunity to begin familiarising
themselves with the criminal case only after the change of political leadership
in Ukraine.


Harassment by the Kazakh special services

Artur Trofimov reported that on 9 May,
2013, in Vienna, near his house he was approached by Toksan Adykenov, who,
according to Trofimov, is closely linked with the Kazakh special services. The
man stated that Trofimov will soon fear for his life and the lives of his loved
ones, should he fail to give incriminating evidence against Ablyazov. Trofimov
believes that this confirms his home in Vienna is subject to surveillance by
the Kazakh special services.


The Open Dialog Foundation hereby urges law
enforcement agencies of the Republic of Austria to take into account the
political context of the charges against Artur Trofimov and Ablyazov’s other
colleagues, as well as to pay attention to the documents, published in the
media, revealing the corruption cooperation between Kazakh and Russian
authorities within the framework of the case of Ablyazov. The criminal
prosecution of Ablyazov and his colleagues (including Artur Trofimov) fall
within the scope of political interests of the Kazakh authorities. Russian
investigators from the ‘Magnitsky list’ follow the instructions of the Kazakh
side. Their methods of operation prevent  impartial criminal proceedings
being conducted. According to Trofimov, he cannot feel safe now, as the Russian
and Kazakh law enforcement and intelligence agencies may try to get him ‘at all
costs’ due to his unwillingness to give the ‘convenient’ testimony in the case
of Mukhtar Ablyazov.


Given the above, the Open Dialog Foundation is
concerned about the opening of a case investigating Artur Trofimov in the
Republic of Austria, based on a Russian case file of dubious credibility. It
should be noted that undue influence from the Kazakh side was exerted not only
on Ukrainian and Russian investigative authorities, but also on investigative
authorities of the Czech Republic (the case of Tatiana Paraskevich), Spain (the
case of Alexander Pavlov), Italy (the case of Alma Shalabayeva and 6-year-old
Alua Ablyazova), as well as France and Great Britain (the case of Mukhtar
Ablyazov). We express our hope that the Republic of Austria will not succumb to
the manipulation of the Kazakh and Russian security services, and will not help
to facilitate political persecution by authoritarian regimes.


The Open Dialog Foundation welcomes the
decision of Austria to refuse to extradite Trofimov to Russia, where he would
face a politically motivated trial, torture, interrogation in the interests of
Kazakhstan, or illegal rendering to Kazakhstan. We stand in solidarity with the
appeals of Russian human rights activists who call for the granting of
political asylum to Trofimov. We hereby urge the Austrian authorities to heed
the position of international human rights organisations citing the political
nature of the case against Ablyazov and his colleagues, as well as to carefully
and comprehensively consider the circumstances of the case.


You are welcome to support our appeals
by addressing the following persons and institutions:


The Central Prosecutor’s Office for
criminal cases involving economic crimes and corruption (Zentrale
Staatsanwaltschaft zur Verfolgung von Wirtschaftsstrafsachen und Korruption
(WKStA),Department9 (Geschäftsabteilung 9) – Dampfschiffstraße 4, 1030 Wien, Österreich,
tel. +43 1 521 52 5930, fax: +43 1 521 52 5920;


Federal Office for Aliens and Refugees
(Bundesamt für Fremdenwesen und Asyl) – Regionaldirektion Wien, Hernalser
Gürtel 6-12, 1080 Wien, Österreich (official – Herr Oberauer);


Federal Minister of Justice Wolfgang
Brandstetter – Museumstraße 7, 1070 Vienna, tel. +43 152 15 20;

Federal Minister of Europe, Integration
and Fireign Affairs Sebastian Kurz – Minoritenplatz 8, 1010 Vienna, tel. +43
050 11 500, fax: +43 050 11 590;


The Astrian Ombudsman Board (Günther
Kräuter, Gertrude Brinek and Peter Fichtenbauer) – 1015 Vienna, Singerstrasse
17, P.O. Box 20, tel. +43 015 15 050, fax: +43 0151505-150, e-mail: 


For more detailed information, please address:

Igor Savchenko – 

Lyudmyla Kozlovska – lyudmylakozlovska@odfoundation.eu


The Open Dialog Foundation




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