Bulat Utemuratov, “a billionaire who has never had a business”, as portrayed by some classified American diplomat, indeed had a business. In his extensive PR presents him as the self-made wealthy genius manager and investor. In some cases it definitely is true: the essence of the Unicredit-ATF bank affair, as an example, is indeed implemented by genius. A former butcher and Soviet-era caricature of the shop manager he crawled to the very heights of the Kazakh oligarchy by offering his fixing services and vast international ties. Bulat Utemuratov is not self-made in a true sense of the word, but rather made-for-purpose. The regime needs a middleman to launder the money it got from the exploiting the riches of the land.

Bulat Utemuratov’s role in the Unicredit-ATF bank scheme

Bulat Utemuratov
Bulat Utemuratov

The way Bulat Utemuratov works is quite simple and repetitive. His investment company, Verny Capital, buys, steals or extorts some local assets, usually a mining field or mining complex. Then the assets is sold to some international corporation with price inflated tenfold or more. The experts both local and international consider this practice as a way for bribing the Kazakhstan’s rulers. In this case Utemuratov’s involvement is merely a wallet service. He is being viewed as a Nazarbayev’s “personal financial manager” by US intelligence and diplomatic services.

The assets in question are briefly in possession of the Verny Capital. No investment has being made yet the buyer accepts to pay an inflated price. It was the exact case with Glencore. It is considered that the whole scheme has been deployed to add legitimacy to the enormous amounts of suspicious money the Kazakhstan rulers invest abroad. It may be was effective then – and seems to run dry for now.


There is one case that seems to be out of the pattern. The selling of ATF bank to UniCredit group us visibly different as Italians got nothing in return except of disgrace. UniCredit bought the sole enterprise in which Bulat Utemuratov is involved personally and for a long time. It was Almaty Trade and Finance bank. After they made a purchase they discovered that the bank value was inflated and the assets somewhat on a rotten side. It remains a mystery how Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, the custodians of the deal, missed it. Perhaps the clue is that one of the MS team of assessors is now working for Bulat Utemuratov himself?

Bulat Utemuratov and his stunt in Unicredit ATF sale

The unfortunate deal of selling ATF Bank to Unicredit remains a puzzle. Some investigators assume that it was a double-sided money laundering operation performed to get some assets written off. Maybe the deal was more complicated and some other Italian corporations were in play. ENI, in particular, were struggling to get the concessions at the oil fields. No firm confirmation of any theory are available.

Utemuratov’s wealth is evaluated by Forbes to be two billion US dollars. However, this is very conservative estimation. More likely the wealth is at least five billion in USD. https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/former-supermarket-manager-becomes-kazakhstans-richest-man-2018-11-07 How much of the billions are Utemuratov true share and how much of it is just a form of wallet for Nazarbaev’s clan?

As for now the Nazarbaev’s money is spreading far and wide. Utemuratov’s company invests in Monaco new luxurious Le Portier district. Being unable to build the decent country at home Nazarbaev men bet on the Monte Carlo safe haven.

About the author: Damien Karlström

The editor-in-chief worked for many years as a literary editor in Bern's leading publications. Over time, I decided to become the editor-in-chief. The main direction of materials is international relations and society.

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