Thirteen years after controversial ATF/UniCredit affair Bulat Utemuratov is still busy proving that nothing was wrong with the deal. The fact that it still bothers Kazakhstan’s #3 most influential businessman is hinting for the opposite though, Talk Finance reports.

UniCredit acquisition of ATF Bank went terribly wrong. UniCredit lost billions supporting the ailing bank while trying to keep it afloat. Italians writ off £1 billion in non-performing loans. Few years later the bank was sold for a fraction of initial price to the local Kazakhstan businessman Galymzhan Esenov. And suddenly the bank has got all his glory back in no time.

Were the Austrian-Italian grossly incompetent to buy the dummy bank for nearly £2 billions? Were they so blatantly incapable to manage the bank? Were the local corruption to blame? Or the 2007 Great Recession was a leading factor for the ATF demise under the Italian rule?

There are some sound arguments for more inspiring assumptions. Judging from the overall reputation of Italian bank and its involvement in a series of financial affairs it is quite possible to presume that the entire affair was premeditated by Bulat Utemuratov and his partners. They knew it all. As a result of the deal circa £2 billions of fresh money were legally transferred to Europe and the Kazakhstani regime has its financial security greatly improved.

But thirteen years after the deal was closed in cash Bulat Utemuratov is still insisting that the demise of the bank was tied to financial crisis. And invests quite a labour in promoting this view in the local as well as international press.

Understanding the importance of keeping appearances up he bought several news outlets. Local press is flooding in his PR stunts. Informbyuro, one of the media under his command, posted 200+ PR articles alone. To be fair one half of them is dedicated to the charity he runs, but the other is advocating his business practices and pushes his vision, among others, on the ATF/UniCredit deal. His team is also cooperating with other media. Bulat Utemuratov runs an advertisement block on right next to the ‘Top-50 rating‘.

One of the reasons for disbelief in the ‘2007 crisis theory’ as a main cause for the Italian catastrophe is that the general scheme was used by him afterwards. Soon after the ATF he seemingly conspired with Glencore to manipulate the mining assets. It resulted in anomalous activity of the latter by which shareholders of the Swiss-base mining corporation loose decent amount of money while supporting the Kazakhstan’s oligarchy.

In one of the articles dedicated to whitewashing his reputation he states that after ATF sale he decided to cease all offshore activity and tax evasion techniques. It’s true that Bulat Utemuratov can’t be found in what we know as ‘Panama papers’ and others publicly accessible information silos. Instead of him, however, we see his close relatives.

Some years ago the public prosecutor’s office in Zwolle, the Netherlands, opened an investigation on the suspicion that Glencore paid millions of dollars in bribes to Utemuratov. Formally, the investigation runs against a Dutch trustee, who is accused by the authorities of money laundering. In this context, however, it is also about the business of Glencore in Kazakhstan.

At the center of the criminal investigations is a business in which Glencore, through a subsidiary in Nidwalden, has bought Kazzinc shares for over 20 million dollars from an off-shore company in Curaçao, for which the Caribbean company previously paid only 7.7 million dollars. The Dutch prosecutor’s office assumes that the price difference, ultimately at least 5 million dollars, got into Utemuratov’s pockets.

The Swiss authorities are helping the Dutch investigators, who are expected to proceed with questioning soon. If the investigation ends up going to court, it would be the first time that Bulat Utemuratov will face exposure of this kind.

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