Rakhat Aliyev, the former son-in-law of President Nursultan Nazarbayev, has been arrested in Vienna seven years after fleeing Kazakhstan following a spectacular fall-out with his father-in-law.
The arrest of Aliyev, who has been convictedin absentia in Kazakhstan on charges ranging from kidnapping and embezzlement to plotting a coup d’etat against Nazarbayev, was reported by Austria’s APA news agency on June 6.
The report did not specify on what charges Aliyev – the former husband of Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva – had been detained, but noted that Austria opened a murder investigation against him in July 2011.
That came a month after Kazakhstan announced that Aliyev was facing a murder rap in absentia after evidence emerged “irrefutably proving” he had killed two bankers who disappeared in 2007.
Prosecutors said after finding the bodies of Zholdas Timraliyev and Aybar Khasenov four years after their disappearance that the men had been tortured, suffocated, put in barrels and hidden in a gorge outside Almaty, Kazakhstan’s commercial capital.
Aliyev – who held a string of high-powered posts in Nazarbayev’s administration and controlled a vast business empire – was serving as ambassador to Austria when the scandal over the bankers’ disappearance broke. He never returned to Kazakhstan.
He was later convicted in absentia of kidnapping the bankers, among other charges, and sentenced to 40 years in jail.
He has never been tried for murder, but he has been linked to other deaths, including that of opposition leader Alytnbek Sarsenbayev in 2006.
A re-trial of that case earlier this year heard the man convicted of the murder testify that Aliyev hired him to carry out the contract killing.
Officials have also linked Aliyev to the suspicious death of TV presenter Anastasia Novikova, found buried in a secret grave in Kazakhstan in 2007.
Aliyev has long denied any criminal activity and positions himself as a wronged democrat, an image Kazakhstan’s administration and opposition alike reject.
Dariga Nazarbayeva divorced him in 2007; he remarried and took his wife’s family name, Shoraz. The couple lived in Malta, but as legal pressure heated up there were reports Aliyev had moved to Greece.
His legal representative Manfred Ainedter told APA that Aliyev had “voluntarily” travelled to Austria – which has previously refused Kazakhstan’s bid to extradite him – because he wants to “cooperate” after an arrest warrant was issued for him on May 19.
Officials in Kazakhstan have not yet commented on the arrest, the latest success for Astana as it relentlessly pursues its foes abroad. Another high-profile Nazarbayev opponent, oligarch Mukhtar Ablyazov, is in jail in France fighting extradition requests from Russia and Ukraine on corruption charges that he denies.