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The “full story” of Mukhtar Ablyazov

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It has been described by some as “fraud on an epic scale” and, now, the “full story” of Mukhtar Ablyazov has been put in print.

To those unfamiliar with the said Mr Ablyazov, he is an individual who has certainly attracted his share of attention in recent years.

The problem for him is that a lot of this publicity has not been very favourable.

Now, a new book by the UK-born journalist/publisher Gary Cartwright claims to shed new light on the somewhat murky world inhabited by Mr Ablyazov and his many associates.

The redoubtable Cartwright, a former staffer in the European Parliament, certainly cannot be accused of not doing the works on a man whose recent fortunes make the travails of Donald Trump appear lightweight by comparison.

With the ninth anniversary of his "flight from the authorities" in his homeland of Kazakhstan fast approaching, the raft of transnational court cases involving Mr Ablyazov show no sign of abating.

“Wanted Man: The story of Mukhtar Ablyazov”, penned by Cartwright, tells the shady story of a mega rich man that stretches from his homeland to the United Kingdom onto France and to U.S President Trump himself.

Welcome  to the murky world of Mukhtar Ablyazov.

Accordng to Cartwright, nowadays mostly based in Belgium, this is a criminal mastermind, a man facing a miscellaneous assortment of allegations.

First, a bit of history: Mr Ablyazov was appointed as head of the state-owned Kazakhstan Electricity Grid Operating Company (KEGOC) and named Minister for Energy, Industry, and Trade in Kazakhstan. Within a year, KECOG revenues  were reportedly down by 12 percent and expenditure up by 53 percent, a pattern repeated in 1999 when he was named CEO of Air Kazakhstan.

After falling foul of the authorities, Mr Ablyazov, the book recalls, took flight from his homeland to claim asylum in the UK where he settled into opulent Carlton House on Billionaire’s Row in Highgate, London.

Cartwright says that Mr Ablyazov was soon on the run again, this time from British justice. Despite an arrest warrant having been issued, he managed to slip away to France.

In his absence, between November 2012 and March 2013,  the book says that British courts passed judgments against Mr Ablyazov, with Lord Justice Maurice Kay observing that: “It is difficult to imagine a party to commercial litigation who has acted with more cynicism, opportunism and deviousness towards court orders than Mr Ablyazov.”

After being warned of risks of kidnapping or assassination several times by various sources, including the British police, went into hiding, moving between luxury villas in the south of France. Along the way, the book says that the saga even reached the hallowed corridors of the European parliament.

Today, from his villa in France, Ablyazov continues to complain of his “persecution”.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this tangled tale, there is no denying Cartwright’s determination to try to get to the bottom of this startling story.

The story, in some ways, is not particularly new as Mr Ablyazov’s tortuous journey through various member states’ judicial systems and, more importantly, those who were left in its wake, is quite well known.

But Cartwright, who interviewed scores of people and invested  hundreds of hours of research in compiling this work, certainly deserves full credit for trying to get to the heart of the staggering fall from grace of this former top Kazakh minister.

EU

Kazakhstan’s Kairat Abdrakhmanov appointed OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities

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Kairat Abdrakhmanov. Photo credit: Kazakh Foreign Ministry

Kazakh diplomat and Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Sweden and Denmark Kairat Abdrakhmanov (pictured) was appointed High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM) at the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), said Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tileuberdi at a press briefing today (4 December), writes Assel Satubaldina.

The decision was made during the 27th meeting of the OSCE Council of Foreign Ministers that took place online 3-4 December.

Abdrakhmanov’s candidacy was submitted by Kazakhstan and was “positively welcomed by all OSCE members”, said the minister, which, according to him, attests to Kazakhstan’s increasing role and influence on the international arena as well as the political reforms carried out by Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Kazakhstan’s chairmanship in the 57-nation OSCE in 2010 also served as a positive factor.

Abdrakhmanov is a veteran Kazakh diplomat. A graduate of the Al Farabi Kazakh National University, he previously served as Kazakh Foreign Minister, Kazakhstan’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE and to the United Nations, Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Austria, and Israel.

The post of High Commissioner on National Minorities is one of the key positions at the OSCE assigned to identify and address situations in regard to tensions involving national minorities, which could give rise to a conflict between OSCE member states. The commissioner personally visits representatives of governments and minorities and analyzes the current threats to stability in the OSCE region.

The high commissioner is elected every three years and Abdrakhmanov replaced Italian diplomat Lamberto Zannier, whose three-year tenure ended 18 July this year.

Being appointed as OSCE High Commissioner, Abdrakhmanov will have to relinquish his position as Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Sweden and Denmark to “ensure objectivity and impartiality.”

“As you know, 2020 has been uneasy for the OSCE, because, over the past months, the organization’s senior positions were vacant. In July, all four relinquished their mandates. We believe it was an institutional crisis. But a solution was found today, and the consensus was achieved on key positions,” said Tileuberdi, noting that no diplomat from the Commonwealth of Independent States and Central Asia has been previously appointed to such a high-level position.

During the meeting, the decision was also made on the OSCE Secretary-General, Special Representative for the Freedom of the Media and head of the Office for Elections and Human Rights. The four top positions at the organization remained vacant since July.

“Our country will continue to work in close cooperation with Sweden’s chairmanship at the OSCE,” concluded the minister.

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€6.1 billion for sustainable fisheries and safeguarding fishing communities 

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Today (4 December) EU legislators reached a provisional agreement on how EU countries will be able to spend funds allocated to fisheries and aquaculture for 2021-2027.

The European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFAF) for the period 2021-2027 amounts to €6.1 billion (€6.108bn EUR in current prices). €5.3bn will be allocated for the management of fisheries, aquaculture and fishing fleets, while the remaining sum will cover measures such as scientific advice, controls and checks, market intelligence, maritime surveillance and security.

Member states will have to spend at least 15% of the money on efficient fisheries control and enforcement, including fighting against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. In line with the Green Deal, actions under the fund will contribute to the overall budget objective to dedicate 30% of funds to climate action.

Compensation for fishermen

If fishermen’s activities cease permanently, they can be supported to scrap or decommission a vessel. In order to receive compensation, the equivalent fishing capacity is permanently removed from the EU fishing fleet register and the beneficiary must not register any fishing vessel within five years of receiving support.

If fishing activities cease temporarily, fishermen may be granted compensation for a maximum duration of 12 months per vessel or per fisherman during the programming period.

Specific needs of small-scale coastal fishing and young fishermen

Member states will need to take into account the specific needs of small-scale coastal fishing, including simplifying administrative requirements. Also, first acquisition of a fishing vessel or partial ownership (of at least 33%) can be funded if the fisherman is no more than 40 years of age and has worked for at least five years as a fisherman or has acquired the equivalent qualification. Fishermen can purchase small-scale coastal vessels (total length less than 12 meters) that have been registered for three years or vessels up to 24 meters that have been registered for five years.

Small-scale vessels may also receive support to replace or modernise engines if the new or modernized engine does not have more power in kW than that of their current engine.

Improving safety, working conditions and energy efficiency

A fishing vessel that is not longer than 24 meters and older than 10 years can have its gross tonnage increased if this results in significant improvements, such as renovating accommodation and other facilities for the well-being of the crew, better on-board fire prevention and safety systems, increased energy efficiency or lower CO2 emissions.

Other key measures

- Engines can be replaced or modernized under strict conditions: for vessels between 12 and 24 meters and at least five years old, the new or modernised engine must not have more power in kW and a reduction of 20% CO2 emissions must be ensured; the fishing capacity withdrawn due to engine replacement or modernisation cannot be replaced.

- Focus on outermost regions: member states will have to prepare an action plan for each of their outermost regions; specific budget allocations are foreseen.

- Support may also be granted for storage of fisheries products in exceptional events generating a significant disruption of markets.

Rapporteur Gabriel Mato (EPP, ES) said: “We reached a balanced agreement on the future European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund. A fund that would enable the EU fleet to fish and farm better, not to fish more. A fund that would allow the sector to invest in workers’ safety and wellbeing and environmentally-efficient engines and vessels. And a fund that would allow for generational renewal, while avoiding overcapacity and overfishing. The fishing and aquaculture sectors and the whole seafood value chain need support now more than ever to face current and future challenges.”

Next steps

Parliament and Council are now expected to endorse the agreement. The provisions of the regulation will then apply as of 1 January 2021.

Background

The European Maritime and Fisheries Fund proposal was published by the Commission in June 2018 and refers to the Multiannual Financial Framework for 2021-2027. The previous EMFF budget covering the years 2014 to 2020 amounted to €6.4bn.

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EU Budget 2021 deal: Supporting the recovery 

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MEPs have fought for and obtained better support for key EU programmes creating jobs, tackling the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic and boosting climate action.

Today (4 December), the negotiators from the European Parliament and the Council reached a common understanding on the 2021 EU Budget.

The preliminary figures are €164.3 billion in commitment appropriations and €166.1bn in payment appropriations. Detailed figures will be available later.

For a more competitive Europe, creating jobs and investing in the EU’s future

MEPs succeeded in reinforcing, on top of the Commission’s original budget proposal, programmes they considered key to boosting growth and jobs, reflecting widely agreed European Union priorities, namely Digital Europe (+25.7 million) and the Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) for transport infrastructure (+€60.3 million).

Strengthen respect for Europe’s values and boosting climate action

As a supplementary effort to fight climate change, the reinforcements obtained by the EP for the LIFE programme (+€42 million) aim at contributing from the outset to reaching the target of 30% of climate-relevant spending in the EU budget for the 2021-2027 period.

The Rights and Values programme will receive an additional €6.6m, and the European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO), an independent Union body aiming to fight crimes against the Union budget will benefit from an extra €7.3m.

MFF top-ups: supporting the young, EU research and health care

Other reinforcements for 2021 reflect the top-ups to selected key EU programmes Parliament obtained in the deal with Council on the next long-term EU budget (MFF) 2021-2027.

This is the case for Erasmus+ (+€175.1m), Horizon Europe (research programme, +€20m) and the EU4Health programme, the EU’s response to COVID-19, by a further €74.3m. EU4Health will support medical and healthcare staff, patients and health systems. Similarly, the commitment appropriations for humanitarian aid have been increased by €25m and for supporting the EU’s southern neighbourhood by €10.2m.

“I’m pleased we could reach a swift agreement in the interest of European citizens in these challenging times. With the top-ups for some of the future-looking programmes agreed in the multi-annual framework just weeks ago, we obtained budget increases for other programmes with proven European added value. These extra investments in, for example, the trans-European transport networks and digital Europe all answer to real needs and are in line with the expectations of EU citizens”, said the Chair of the Budgets committee Johan van Overtveldt (ECR, BE).

“Parliament and Council today reached an agreement on the 2021 EU budget. €164 billion to protect citizens, reduce the immediate impact of the crisis and prepare for a more prosperous, balanced and sustainable future. In the last two days of the negotiations, Parliament secured an additional €183m for its priorities: health, climate and employment. Considering the very rigid framework, this is a good result. Faced with governments that were unwilling to give up one cent, Parliament did its utmost and obtained additional increases. But, in all conscience, we all know that this budget is not up to the task. It was the maximum that could be obtained given the multiannual budget that was negotiated with heads of state who decide unanimously.

"But the good news is that there is a solution that can mobilise more than €50bn per year for health, climate and employment, and that will not be blocked by the unanimity rule: taxing speculation by relaunching the existing reinforced cooperation on this subject. I call on the leaders of these pioneering countries, starting with Merkel and Macron, to get to work on this tax without delay”, said the lead rapporteur (Commission section) Pierre Larrouturou (S&D, FR).

"Thanks to the united position of the European Parliament, we have reached a very good political agreement on the 2021 budget of the European Union institutions, despite a difficult context of crisis. My concern throughout these negotiations was to ensure that all the institutions of the Union, i.e. the Court of Justice, the Court of Auditors, the European Ombudsman, the Committee of the Regions, the Economic and Social Committee, the European Data Protection Supervisor,..., have sufficient resources and staff to enable them to fulfill their missions as well as possible and to function optimally. This was made possible following our commitment to save money in connection with the changes in our activities during the COVID-19 pandemic", said the rapporteur for the other sections, Oliver Chastel (RENEW,BE).

Next steps

In the absence of an agreement in Council on the EU’s long-term budget (MFF, Multiannual Financial Framework 2021-2027), the two arms of the EU’s budgetary authority, Parliament and Council, have not formalised their deal. Once the MFF is adopted, Commission will propose the substance of the agreement as second draft budget.

Once Council has formally adopted the compromise in the form of this second draft budget, it will be submitted for approval to the Committee on Budgets, then voted on in plenary in the European Parliament and signed into law by its President.

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