#Kazakhgate: Patokh Chodiev’s lawyer lambasts the Commission of Inquiry

| May 3, 2018

The Belgian Chamber of Representatives approved the conclusions of the “Kazakhgate” Commission of Inquiry on Thursday, April 26. The next day the lawyer of Kazakh businessman Patokh Chodiev (pictured) held a press conference calling into question the impartiality of the Commission as well as that of its Chairman, Dirk Van der Maelen. Patokh Chodiev is now demanding an apology from the Belgian Government. Indeed, it’s safe to say that the Commission’s conclusions did not satisfy the defence.

On Friday, Patokh Chodiev’s lawyer, Pascal Vanderveeren, held a press conference calling for an indictment of the PIC’s work, deemed to have been riddled with irregularities. A similar call came from Vincent van Quickenborne, an Open-VLD commission member, who tweeted shortly after the proceedings: “The answer to the real question at the heart of the Commission (did the law on the amicable settlement come about with the aim of helping Chodiev?) the answer is clearly ‘No’. Apologies from the Commission are not necessary. Apologies from commission members who gratuitously accused him are.”

 

The final report debunks two of the main theories swirling around Mr. Chodiev and the Kazakhgate case. One, no bribes or corruption were identified during Mr. Chodiev’s application for Belgian nationality. Two, the Commission did not find any evidence to suggest that a foreign power (such as France or Kazakhstan, as was widely speculated in the media) or any associate of Mr. Chodiev influenced the outcome of the legislative process regarding the adoption of the law extending the scope of amicable settlements.

Claiming to be “deeply dissatisfied with the way in which the Commission had carried out its work”, Pascal Vanderveeren strongly denounced the “numerous leaks and selective, salacious, damaging and above all, false information” which flooded the press throughout the parliamentary investigation. Ever since the beginning of the investigation, a steady stream of confidential documents flowed into the Belgian media, raising questions about the MPs’ impartiality. The lawyer also highlighted that, despite multiple requests from MPs, Mr. Van der Maelen never investigated the origin of these leaks.

Mr. Vanderveeren also underlined the long duration of the Commission’s work, lasting over sixteen months – thirteen months longer than the three initially scheduled by its Chairman. Despite this, Mr. Van de Maelen failed to strengthen his majority, and the final report was adopted by a healthy majority.  Eight members of the commission voted for the final version of the report, while four were against. What’s more, two-thirds of the conclusions which were not unanimously adopted, were dropped by Mr. Van der Maelen.

For Pascal Vanderveeren, the Commission’s conclusions only underscore what he and his client have maintained for months: Patokh Chodiev is innocent of all charges brought against him. Mr. Vanderveeren also pointed out that the PIC completely ignored the numerous letters that he and his client had personally addressed to them. The letters in question were never included in the final report, giving further proof of the Commission’s biased attitude.

For Patokh Chodiev’s lawyer, there is no doubting the lack of impartiality of the Commission’s Chairman. Speaking for the majority, MP Sophie De Wit (N-VA) publicly lamented the fact that the Presidency of the Commission had not being entrusted to another colleague.

“The damage caused to Mr. Chodiev by the poor conduct of the Commission and the obsession of Mr. Van der Maelen are significant,” said the lawyer at the end of his speech. He announced that his client intended to seek legal redress in court but would, very reasonably, drop the suit in return for an official apology despite the damage done to him. Throughout the 16 months of the PIC’s investigations, Mr. Chodiev claims that the so-called “revelations” of the media have led to death threats against himself and his family, in addition to the irreparable damage caused to his reputation as a businessman. In Mr. Vanderveeren’s words, the Commission’s work has only served to perpetuate a climate of exaggeration and general suspicion and mistrust towards Russian and Eastern European nationals in Belgium.

However, Mr. Vanderveeren said that Mr. Chodiev is prepared to drop his case against the Belgian government if it gives him a sincere, timely and formal apology. In short, this would be an orderly way to conclude the case, according to Mr. Vanderveeren. His leniency, however, will not extend to Dirk Van der Maelen, whose “aggression” and “misconduct” have irreparably damaged Mr. Chodiev’s reputation, even though the Commission’s report clears him of all charges.

 

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