Kazakh billions dug up in UK

How Nursultan Nazarbayev controlled the eight billion dollar business in his country.
Former President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev used the UK to manage assets at home and in other countries for a total of $7.8 billion.

The Daily Telegraph published today a report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) that Nursultan Nazarbayev used UK-registered holding company Jusan Technologies in 2020-2021 "to preserve and control nearly $8 billion of assets accumulated during his 30-year rule in Kazakhstan".

It is known that from 2009 to 2021, Mr. Nazarbayev established several private foundations that bear his name and, according to official data, are engaged in charitable educational, social, and patriotic projects. Three funds, including the Nursultan Nazarbayev Fund, controlled the Jusan Technologies holding, established in 2020, according to TBIJ.

Documents obtained by journalists dated October 2021 show that at that time Jusan Technologies was at the center of a whole system of corporate communications. Shares in it belong to representatives of the power elite of Kazakhstan and companies associated with the ruling circles of the United Arab Emirates.

As of October 2021, Jusan Technologies' total assets were reported to be $7.8 billion, including U.S. Treasury bonds, government bonds of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and more than $3 billion in cash.

The holding's assets, according to TBIJ, include banks, telecommunications companies and retailers located primarily in Kazakhstan, but also in Luxembourg, the UK, the UAE, and the US. It can be seen from the documents that the net assets of Jusan Technologies at the end of 2020 amounted to $1.6 billion, net profit - more than $550 million.

The most valuable business in the structure of Jusan Technologies is one of the largest retail banks in Kazakhstan, First Heartland Jusan Bank. The deputy chairman of this bank, the former deputy prime minister and assistant to the president of Nazarbayev until 2015, Yerbol Orynbayev, was the director of Jusan Technologies and owned a 4.6% stake in this company.

Journalists also mention Galimzhan Yessenov, "an oligarch who married the daughter of Nazarbayev's nephew" and headed the Sovereign Fund of Kazakhstan under Nazarbayev. Mr. Yessenov, according to TBIJ, has 20% in First Heartland Jusan Bank. In addition to them, shares in Jusan Technologies were owned, in particular, by Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the son of the founder and first president of the UAE.

As part of the investigation, journalists contacted the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner, which represents the interests of the Nursultan Nazarbayev Foundation in London. They reported that at the end of 2021, the owner of Jusan Technologies changed. It was the American non-profit organization Jysan Holdings LCC, which received Jusan Technologies as a charitable donation.

Jysan Holdings LCC itself is owned by the non-profit organization NU Generation Foundation. And the head of this organization, according to TBIJ, is Aslan Sarinzhipov, head of the Nursultan Nazarbayev Foundation. He was the Minister of Education and Science of Kazakhstan in 2013–2016. Thus, journalists say, now the business empire of the ex-president of Kazakhstan is controlled through the United States.

“The choice of the UK reflects the perceptions of Eurasian elites and kleptocrats that this country is an effective guarantor of their rights to wealth and property,” Alexander Cooley, Eurasia specialist at Columbia University in New York, commented on the data of the report.

According to the expert, representatives of Kazakhstan's elites are buying legal stability and protection. What is happening in the country now is exactly the case that they may have imagined when they chose the UK.

Meanwhile, the publication of the report, according to TBIJ, "exacerbates the discussion within the UK that the country advertises itself as a place where oligarchs, dictators and kleptocrats can safely serve their interests with the help of British lawyers and with minimal public scrutiny."

Recently, Labor MP Margaret Hodge claimed that Nazarbayev used philanthropic funds to "secretly control" assets owned by him through Jusan Technologies. According to her, the UK turns a blind eye to fortunes obtained in suspicious ways, and a number of representatives of the Kazakh elite got rich under Nazarbayev's regime.

“Britain has opened its borders, its real estate market, its financial structures to the ruling class of Kazakhstan, allowing them to launder illegally obtained funds and spend them,” MP Margaret Hodge said in parliament.

According to the parliamentarian, the British authorities do not apply the laws in force in the country to prevent such offenses.

Against the backdrop of these reports, it became known that in the near future the British authorities intend to abolish the system of obtaining a residence permit in exchange for investment in the country's economy.

According to local media, the authorities have long expressed concern that this scheme is used by "criminal elements, as well as very rich citizens of countries such as Russia, China, Kazakhstan."