Controversial think-tank #ODF in Brussels move

| February 12, 2019

Despite being banned from the EU, Lyudmila Kozlovska (pictured), president of the Open Dialogue Foundation, has relocated her HQ to Brussels, writes James Hipwell.

The controversial human-rights activist, banned from the European Union by Poland, has moved her think tank to Brussels, where she is living ten minutes from the European Parliament.

Lyudmila Kozlovska, president of Open Dialogue Foundation (ODF), was deported following an investigation by the Polish government which revealed her organization received funding from “criminal origins” through “offshore tax havens”.
On its website, the ODF describes itself as a human-rights organization focused on the post-Soviet area but critics say it operates an “image washing” service for criminals from the region, thanks to its championing of infamous fraudsters Mukhtar Ablyazov and Veaceaslav Platon.

Kozlovska, a Ukrainian, was deported in August after the Polish Internal Security Agency said it had “serious doubts regarding the funding of the Open Dialog Foundation Ms Kozlovska is running”.
“As a result, Ms Kozlovska has been banned from entering the territory of Poland and the EU,” the agency wrote in a statement.

Kozlovska’s supporters say the deportation was politically motivated and point to the fact that she and her Polish husband, Bartosz Kramek, had criticised the government for what they see as its efforts to undermine the country’s democracy.

However, banning her from the European Union appears to have had little practical effect, with Kozlovska since appearing at a string of events at national parliaments and other venues across the European Union.

In September, she spoke on a platform with German MP Frank Schwabe at the Bundestag in Berlin and later the same month with Guy Verhofstadt, former Belgian prime minister and president of the ALDE Group, at the European Parliament in Brussels.

In October, she was seen with Ana Gomes of the European Socialists & Democrats alliance (S&Ds), at the parliament, while in November she met Petras Auštrevičius of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe and Dariusz Rosati of the European People’s Party.

In the same month she was at the parliament in Brussels again to meet Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission, who is widely tipped to replace Jean-Claude Juncker as president of the commission later this year. Also in November she was invited by Alex Sobel, a UK Labour MP, to speak at an event at the House of Commons in London.

In December, Kozlovska gatecrashed the Polish embassy’s Christmas party in Brussels where she drank wine with Polish politicians. She was photographed beside Artur Orzechowski, Poland’s ambassador to Belgium, but the Polish embassy said she was not invited and that she took “advantage of an opportunity to unfairly manipulate the image of a diplomat” by arranging the photograph.

Now it has emerged Kozlovska is living permanently in Brussels and has registered the ODF with the Belgian companies register.

Her husband Bartosz Kramek, who is ODF chairman, has also set up a new company in Belgium to run the consulting business he previously ran in Warsaw and through which much of the think tank’s funding has been funnelled.

Company records show the couple live at an apartment near the Bois de la Cambre, less than a ten minute drive from the European Parliament.

Kozlovska has also been frequently seen with Bota Jardemalie, а lawyer and close associate of Kazakh fugitive Mukhtar Ablyazov, former chairman of BTA Bank. In June, the pair were seen leaving Jardemalie’s Brussels apartment and the lawyer appeared alongside Kozlovska at many of her speaking events at the European Parliament.

Jardemalie may have played a role in helping Kozlovska to gain residency in the Belgian capital. Last summer Spyker revealed how the lawyer was lobbying senior Belgian figures to gain residency in Belgium for Ablyazov.

The site claimed she had “a close and intimate relationship with a Belgium police officer called Alain De Leener” and that she was also “on intimate terms” with Daniel Schwammenthal, an influential lobbyist.

Spyker also claimed Jardamelie had been “cultivating” political activist Laurent Bonford, who has worked as a parliamentary assistant for Belgium’s governing MR party led by prime minister Charles Michel.

Ablyazov has lived in France since fleeing the UK authorities in 2012, when London’s high court sentenced him to 22 months for what the judge described as his “brazen” contempt of court.

BTA is now owned by the Kazakh government, which claims that during his time as chairman, Ablyazov siphoned off more than $5 billion through a network of companies that he owned. He denies the embezzlement charges and claims they are politically motivated. It is a view that Kozlovska and the ODF has been more than happy to endorse.

However, the Kazakh’s future in France is uncertain. In 2016, he narrowly escaped extradition on fraud charges to Russia when lawyers succeeded in overturning an earlier ruling that he should face trial there, arguing that the Kremlin was likely to hand him over to authorities in Kazakhstan.

Reports have long circulated that Kozlovska has also been working for Ablyazov and running the ODF as his special-purpose lobbying group.

In 2014, Polish newspaper Wprost reported that Kozlovska had lobbied MEPs not to engage with Kazakh opposition groups aside from for Ablyazov’s Alga! party, on the grounds that other groups were agents of the Kazakh government.
More recently, wSieci magazine claimed that “in some periods” Ablyazov had been “the main financer of ODF”. The publication concluded: “After tracking ODF’s activity from the beginning of its existence you are tempted to say it was and is a lobbying institution for rent.”

Kozlovska has always denied that her organization has received money from the Kazakh dissident.

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Category: A Frontpage, EU, Kazakhstan, Kazakhstan, Poland