Top Kazakh family wins court ruling on London mansions

By: AFP      Published: 07:46 PM, 8 Apr, 2020
Top Kazakh family wins court ruling on London mansions

The daughter and grandson of a former Kazakhstan president won a British court ruling Wednesday over plans to seize three multimillion-pound London properties from the family.

The UK's National Crime Agency (NCA) had obtained unexplained wealth orders (UWOs) against the luxury properties, said to be worth a total of around £80 million ($96.5 million, 89.6 million euros), last May.

UWOs, brought into force in January 2018 under so-called "McMafia laws" -- named after a BBC organised crime drama -- allows the NCA to seize assets if they believe the owner is a "politically exposed person" and unable to explain the source of their wealth.

The NCA said the properties' purchases were funded by Rakhat Aliyev, a former senior member of the Kazakh government who died in an Austrian prison in 2015 while awaiting trial on two charges of murder.

However, in a High Court judgement, given remotely, judge Beverley Lang overturned all three UWOs, ruling that "the NCA's assumption" that Rakhat Aliyev was the source of the funds to purchase the three properties was "unreliable".

The ultimate beneficial owners of the three properties -- Rakhat Aliyev's ex-wife, Dariga Nazarbayeva, the current chairwoman of the senate in Kazakhstan and daughter of former Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev, and her son, Nurali Aliyev -- had applied to the High Court to discharge the UWOs.

The judge added that there was "cogent evidence" that Dr Nazarbayeva and Nurali Aliyev had founded the companies that owned the properties and provided the funds to purchase them.

Following the ruling Nurali Aliyev said the NCA had carried out a "flawed investigation".

"The NCA deliberately ignored the relevant information I voluntarily provided and pursued a groundless and vicious legal action, including making shocking slurs against me, my family and my country," Aliyev said in a statement. "Today we have been vindicated and as a family we now respectfully ask for privacy."

The properties were located across London. One was in north London, in The Bishops Avenue, a wealthy street often referred to as "Billionaires' Row", and another in nearby Highgate. The third was an apartment in Chelsea, south-west London, which campaign group Transparency International says is worth £31 million.