ASTANA – Criminal investigators from the United States said Tuesday in the Kazakh city of Zhambyl that the 2004 shooting death of banker Yerzhan Tatishev during a hunting excursion was premeditated murder.
“The weapon used for the murder was very expensive, it is not one of those firearms that fires itself,” said forensic expert Michael Murphy, who is a witness in the investigation along with crime scene analysts Scott Perkins and Iris Dalley.
“We interviewed the man who cleaned the weapon and he said that it was in perfect condition,” Murphy said.
Kazakh businessman Muratkhan Tokmadi was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for Tatishev’s death and sentenced to one year in prison, but did not serve time thanks to a pardon.
Last year, however, Tokmadi confessed to planning to murder the banker on the orders of magnate and opposition leader Mukhtar Ablyazov, who allegedly paid him $4 million for the deed.
Ablyazov has already been sentenced in absentia to 20 years in prison for creating and directing a criminal organization, embezzlement, money laundering and abuse of authority during his time as head of BTA, one of Kazakhstan’s biggest banks.
Once a prominent opposition leader, Ablyazov went into exile in France in 2009. Two years later, he and his family were granted political asylum in the United Kingdom.
In December 2016, French authorities rejected a request for his extradition.
Citing Ablyazov’s UK asylum status, France said the extradition bid was politically motivated moves against an “opponent to the Kazakh regime.”
The Council of State, France’s highest court for administrative matters, said the Kazakh authorities successively pressured Ukraine and Russia to request Ablyazov’s extradition, and that Kazakh and Russian authorities have been working together on the case.
If the court in Zhambyl decides that Tatishev’s murder was intentional, Ablyazov may face a new battle over extradition.