What the Belgian Kazakhgate investigation actually found Guide, Patokh Chodiev

What the Belgian Kazakhgate investigation actually found

24 Nov 2020

Following a series of gloomy allegations in the media attacking billionaire Patokh Chodiev, the Belgian parliament launched a 16-month investigation to find out whether the businessman was part of a scheme to influence legislators. The Parliamentary Inquiry Commission (PIC) heard 177 witnesses and came to the astounding conclusion that the allegations were false.

By Meriem Majdoub

Patokh Chodiev, Kazakh businessman:
Patokh Chodiev Kazakh businessman
photo courtesy of Patokh Chodiev

What the Belgian Kazakhgate investigation dug up

The Belgian investigation is the result of the Belgian penal transaction law being extended to financial crimes in 2011.  One of the first cases to benefit from the new regulations involved Patokh Chodiev, a wealthy Kazakh businessman who obtained Belgian nationality in the 1990s.

According to media reports, Chodiev and the French government sought to influence Belgian politicians to ensure the adoption of the penal transaction law.  The case is now known as “Kazakhgate” in Belgium.

The Belgian parliament launched an investigation at the end of 2016, when a committee of 15 parliamentarians began a long investigation. The report presents their motives:

“In view of the speed with which this law was passed and the manner in which it was adopted by the legislative assemblies, and also in the light of certain information published in the press, the question is whether there has been any foreign interference in this process. They also have questions about the first applications of the law and how Mr. Patokh Chodiev and Mr. Alijan Ibragimov obtained Belgian nationality.”

The investigation into how Chodiev and Ibragimov obtained Belgian nationality uncovered a comedy of errors by Belgian bureaucrats. Files relating to nationality applications were submitted late and contained “sometimes erroneous, incomplete or contradictory information”, according to the parliamentarians’ report.

“The organisation of certain agencies did not seem up to scratch,” the commission concluded.

The Belgian media also reported that State Security had doubts about Chodiev and Ibragimov’s applications for Belgian nationality because of certain information linking them to the Russian mafia. However, the parliamentary commission of inquiry found that the State Security informed that it had “Nothing to report” in connection with the application for citizenship. The committee concluded that the procedure was followed correctly and rejected any suggestion that Chodiev and Ibragimov should be stripped of Belgian nationality.

In their report, the committee wrote: “In connection with Mr. Patokh Chodiev’s application for citizenship, approved by the House of Representatives on 18 June 1997… the Citizenship Department and the Citizenship Committee of the House of Representatives followed the correct procedure.”

The investigation into the adoption of the extended Belgian penal transaction law in 2011 found that proposals to extend the regime of termination of public prosecution upon payment of a sum of money had been under discussion for years.

The media suggested that, since Chodiev and his associates were the first case of application of the extended penal transaction law, they could have influenced the process of its adoption – potentially with the help of French officials.

However, the committee found that the first advocate of the extended penal transaction law was in fact the diamond sector in Antwerp, and the legal team of Chodiev was not even aware of the existence of this new law until a few months after its adoption.

Patrick de Wolf, Public Prosecutor of the Brussels Court of Appeal, told the committee that the extended penal transaction law “has not been amended in any way for the settlement of cases against Mr. Patokh Chodiev et al.”

Chodiev did not influence the legislative process. The commission also found that Chodiev’s legal team did not “influence the legislative process”, although one of the lawyers, Armand De Decker, was convicted of failing to declare a conflict of interest.

Despite the sensationalist media coverage of Kazakhgate in Belgium, the 16-month investigation conducted by parliamentarians concluded that Patokh Chodiev and his associates had obtained citizenship correctly, that they had not influenced the process of adoption of the extended penal transaction law and that they had correctly reached an agreement with the prosecutors.

A spokeswoman for the Brussels Public Prosecutor’s Office told the Financial Times: “No judgement has been handed down in the proceedings against Mr. Mashkevich, Mr. Ibragimov or Mr. Chodiev. They are therefore presumed innocent.”

Source: http://kapitalis.com/tunisie/2020/10/15/ce-que-lenquete-belge-sur-le-kazakhgate-a-reellement-trouve/

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