In addition to prosecuting suits against victims of police brutality during euro-maidan rallies on the Independace square and on Bankova street in front of the presidential administration in Kyiv, ukrainian public prosecutor's office – for ukrainian taxpayers’ money – continues to work on the extradition of the kazakh oppositionist Mukhtar Ablyazov.
Interestingly, this is the first time that Ukraine demands extradition of a foreign citizen, who had never lived in Ukraine, and had not caused any harm to any of its residents, while the legal reason for the criminal prosecution had been a claim by a foreign bank (BTA Bank, Kazakhstan), which up until recently had been owned by Mr. Ablyazov himself.
Court hearing took place on December 5 in French Aix-en-Provence where Ukraine was represented by a well-known American law firm Winston & Straw, which has an office in Paris. This law firm received an assignment to ensure the extradition of Mr. Ablyazov to Ukraine.
Representatives of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, who participated in the court hearing as observers, received a copy of the letter saying that Kyiv city police investigator Major Melnyk had authorized the Winston & Straw to participate in the court hearing on extradition on behalf of Ukraine.
Here is the text of letter:
MINISTRY OF THE INTERIOR
GENERAL DEPARTMENT IN THE CITY OF KYIV PERMISSION TO APPEAR IN COURT
OFFICE OF INVESTIGATIONS
I, Maxym Melnyk, Major of Police, Investigator of the Department of Criminal Investigation in the Area of Official Activities (Office of Investigation of the General Department of the Ministry of the Interior in the city of Kyiv), taking into account that Ukraine has submitted request for the extradition of Mr. Mukhtar Ablyazov, citizen of Kazakhstan (date of birth: May 16, 1963), hereby certify that according to the Article 696-16 of the Criminal Code of the French Republic that the law firm W&S SELARL having the following corporate details:
W & S SELARL, acting through its partners, maître Gilles Bigot and maître Guillaume -Denis Faure,
Lawyers of Paris Bar Association, located: 48 rue Cambon, CS 71234 Paris, 75039 France,+33 (0)1 53 64 82 82, +33 (0)1 53 64 82 20
is authorized perform the following actions:
– participate in the court hearing that will take place on December 5, 2013 in the Instructional Chamber of the Aix-en-Provence court of appeal where the request on extradition of Mr. Ablyazov will be reviewed;
– participate in all preceding and subsequent court hearings within this extradition procedure;
– present and submit all materials, correspondence; provide oral arguments and observations required to promote interests of Ukraine within these procedure in all agencies, bodies and authorities, where W & S SELARL may act;
– generally, perform all actions needed to extradite Mr. Ablyazov to Ukraine.
Investigator of the General Department of the Ministry of
Interior in the city of Kyiv, Major of Police M. Melnyk
However, Major Melnyk of the Ministry of the Interior should not authorize a private company to act as party to this lawsuit, because the Ministry itself also cannot be a party to a lawsuit (Only the General Prosecutor’s Office can be party to the lawsuit in this case). Therefore, the Winston & Straw cannot act on behalf of Ukraine, because it has no authority to do so.
Photo: representatives of Ukraine in the lawsuit
Oleh Levytskiy, Expert on Criminal Justice (the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union) said: “This situation with representing Ukraine in this distant (in all meanings of this word) lawsuit on extradition of Mr. Ablyazov can only be called tragicomical.
Indeed, the Aix-en-Provence court of appeal received a letter from the Kyiv city police investigator Major Melnyk stating in the right upper corner ‘PERMISSION TO APPEAR IN COURT’ written in capital bold letters. In fact, this phrase makes no sense, because in order to appear in court one doesn’t need any permission unless the court itself had set certain restrictions concerning publicity of specific court proceedings.
It is worth pointing out that according to the Ukrainian legislation only the General Prosecutor’s Office may represent Ukraine in all legal relations with other countries regarding extradition of suspects or convicts. Besides, the legislation in force does not provide for delegation of this exclusive right to represent the Ukrainian state in court to any other entity.”
It is worth mentioning that on October 31, 2013 Westminster Court (London) refused to extradite the Ukrainian citizen Ihor Kononko, Director of Eurasia Investment & Industrial Group, who allegedly had been Mukhtar Ablyazov’s a criminal associate according to the Ukrainian investigative authorities.
This happened despite the fact that in order to secure a verdict on the extradition of Mr. Kononko to Ukraine and to represent Ukraine in court, one of the world's top-ten legal firms, the English Nortom Rose, was hired. As it turned out, the Kazakhstan party has paid for these legal services.
We still don’t know who pays the lawyers in the Ablyazov’s case. Perhaps, in order not to repeat the London mistake, Ukrainian officials decided to pay for the services of the expensive foreign lawyers from the state budget. Moreover, it is likely that the Ukrainian taxpayers also had to pay travel expenses for Oleksandr Kovalenko, Head of Extradition Department of Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office, who also attended the court hearing in France.
Obviously, the Republic of Kazakhstan is interested in extradition of Mukhtar Ablyazov to Ukraine. Kazakhstan has proved itself ready to take any actions in order to get hold of the former owner of BTA Bank and political opponent of President Nazarbayev.
This is attested by the scandalous kidnapping of Mr. Ablyazov’s wife and 6 year-old daughter in Italy in May 2013, as well a high-profile verdict of Spanish judges to extradite his former security chief due to the fact that Spain and Kazakhstan were business partners.
Due to the political nature of the Ukrainian criminal case against Mr. Ablyazov, in Ukraine he will be deprived of a fair trial. There is also a high risk that Mr. Ablyazov may be subjected to an unlawful pressure during his pre-trial investigation.
Ukrainian human right activists believe that the close cooperation of Ukraine with the Russian Federation and Kazakhstan, as well as current social and economic crisis in Ukraine, provide sufficient grounds to assume that after his extradition to Ukraine Mr. Ablyazov may be re-extradited to third countries and ultimately end up in Kazakhstan.
In spite of official assurances on the part of Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office, there will be the highest risk of Mr. Ablyazov’s illegal extradition to the third country during the entire period of criminal proceedings and his stay in Ukraine.