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Home English Expelled dissident's wife regains freedom, thanks Italy

Expelled dissident's wife regains freedom, thanks Italy


(By Paul Virgo)
Rome, December 24 - The wife of Kazakh oligarch and
political dissident Mukhtar Ablyazov thanked Italy on Tuesday
after Kazakhstan's foreign ministry said she was free to leave
the country.
Alma Shalabayeva and her then six-year-old daughter were
deported on a private jet to Kazakhstan after they were seized
in May in a raid on a villa in Rome by Italian police following
pressure from Kazakstan, causing a major international scandal.
Italy repealed her expulsion order after it emerged
Shalabayeva had the legal right to reside here.
Shalabayeva thanked Rome for its role in helping to
persuade the Kazak authorities to give her back her freedom of
movement in a phone call with Italian Foreign Minister Emma
Bonino Tuesday.
Bonino expressed "great satisfaction" and said that
Italy's embassy in Astana will "follow (the case) step by step
until her departure (from Kazakstan) with her little daughter
She said an embassy official had gone to the city of
Almaty to accompany her to Astana and give the woman a visa that
will enable her to return to Europe.
"She'll decide where she wants to settle," said Bonino, who
explained that she had written to her Kazak counterpart about
the case.
"It's the positive end to an affair that the (Italian)
foreign ministry was working on after the (media) spotlight was
turned off.
"The fact that Mrs Shalabayeva has regained her freedom of
movement closes a circle that opened with the repeal of the
expulsion order on July 12".
The chief of staff at the interior ministry resigned over
the expulsion after it emerged that the Kazakh ambassador in
Rome pressured security officials to make the raid, having
ignored the normal channels via the foreign ministry.
Interior Minister and Deputy Premier Angelino Alfano
survived a confidence vote in parliament over the case after he
vowed that neither he, nor any other minister, knew about the
expulsion until after it happened.
Earlier this month Rome prosecutors opened a probe after
investigative TV program Report broadcast an anonymous interview
with an alleged manager of Eni, which has extensive investments
in resource-rich Kazakhstan.
In the interview, the source said Eni was pressured to act
in the eventual arrest and deportation of Ablyazov's family
after Kazakh officials learned of their whereabouts in Rome this
The case caused diplomatic tension between Rome and Astana,
with Bonino condemning the measures taken by the Kazakh
ambassador as ''intrusive'' and ''unacceptable''.
At one point the Kazak government threatened to retaliate
after there was talk that the country's ambassador to Rome could
be expelled.
"Now that the case is closed, we have to refasten relations
between Italy and Kazakhstan after a period of prolonged
coolness," added Bonino.
Ablyazov, a former energy minister, was arrested in France
on July 31 at his sister's house near Cannes.
He has been in detention in the French city of
Aix-en-Provence since, pending extradition requests from
Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine.
Ablyazov fled to the UK in 2011, where he obtained
political asylum, but was labeled a fugitive after he failed to
attend hearings in an embezzlement case against him involving
the BTA Bank he once ran.
He was reportedly fined 400 million dollars in damages.
Ablyazov has denied all charges against him, which he
claims are aimed at removing him as a political rival to
authoritarian Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

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