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Asia-Pacific

France to extradite Kazakh tycoon Ablyazov

media Dissident Kazakh oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, 26 January 2008 file photo. Reuters/Vladimir Tretyakov

France's public prosecutors are to  recommend the extradition of Kazakh oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, who was arrested in a spectacular raid on his riviera villa in July, it was announced on Thursday.

Ablyazov, the former chief of Kazakhstan's BTA bank, is accused of having embezzled billions of dollars and fleeing Kazakhstan.

He was granted political asylum by Britain in 2009 but fled London last year after being sentenced to 22 months in prison for contempt of the court.

The 50-year-old has been in custody at the Aix-Luynes jail in southern France since his arrest near the French riviera resort of Cannes in July this year.

During the court hearing Ablyazov’s lawyers accused Ukraine and Russia of acting as the "long arm" of Kazakhstan, as the country does not have an extradition treaty with France, but wants him sent home indirectly.

But public prosecutor Solange Legras said Ablyazov, a former minister, should be seen as a "criminal on a grand scale" rather than as a dissident opposed to Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The court adjourned the ruling until 16 January when it will also rule on the Russian extradition request.

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