The Case of the Khrapunovs

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  1. Disir
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    Disir Gold Member

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    The subject of lawsuits in the United Kingdom and the United States, former Mayor of Almaty Viktor Khrapunov, his TV-anchorwoman wife Leila, and their son Ilyas stand accused of embezzlement schemes amounting to at least $300 million. Resident in Switzerland since August 2008 when they fled their native Kazakhstan to join their son — loading up a chartered plane with an alleged 18 tonnes of art, antiquities and assorted booty — the family is now the subject of ongoing proceedings by the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Geneva. With a network of connections that span the globe, though, is the Khrapunov house of cards about to come crashing down, or will their friends in high places save them?

    Simple, Yet Audacious Schemes

    Born to a family of bureaucrats in northern Kazakhstan in 1948, Viktor Khrapunov moved to Almaty — then the country’s capital — after completing training at a college of industry and technology. Working as a mechanic while he continued with his studies, he decided to join the Komsomol (the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League), a move which marked the beginning of his political ascent. Khrapunov served as minister of energy and natural resources before being appointed mayor of Almaty, a position he held from 1997 to 2004. He went on to hold a governorship and another ministerial post, before retiring from all public positions in 2007, purportedly for “health reasons.” It is his tenure as mayor, however, from which allegations of corruption stem.

    In August 2008, with local investigators closing in, Viktor Khrapunov and his wife hightailed it out of Almaty to the safe haven of Geneva, where their son was already resident. An investigation by the Kazakh authorities subsequently uncovered 83 shell entities that bore the family’s fingerprints.

    “The theft was committed through the alienation of properties in Almaty and land in protected environmental areas,” Sergey Perov, Kazakhstan’s chief of Anti-Corruption Investigations and head of the inquiry into the Khrapunovs, told The Diplomat. “He also demanded bribes from entrepreneurs for issuing decrees of privatization, which were paid in the form of cash and real estate. We’ve uncovered 28 separate episodes of criminal activity.

    “The schemes used by the Khrapunovs were simple, yet audacious,” Perov said. “The most common went like this: Mayor Khrapunov instructed his subordinates to conduct a fictitious tender for the sale of an asset to a predetermined company, the ultimate owner of which was his wife, Leila. After that, the Khrapunovs resold the object at its real value to a third party. For example, one piece of government land was bought and resold a day later at 45 times the price it was acquired for. He’s not a moral man; he even privatized a kindergarten and a hospital for veterans of the Second World War.”

    As laid out by the plaintiffs in a California court case, Kindergarten No. 186 serves as an example of how the Khrapunovs allegedly conducted their business:
    The Case of the Khrapunovs

    With all of his "friends", why now?
     
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