Will Zhanna ‘Bota’ Akhmetova go to prison?

On October 25, Kyivo-Svyatoshynskiy Court detained internationally wanted Zhanar Akhmetova for 18 days. Kazakhstan authorities are charging her with fraud based on the Article 177 of the Criminal Code. The defense does not deny that their client is not entirely clean before the law, but insists that Zhanar had already been convicted based on this article in her homeland and cannot be prosecuted for the second time for the same offence.

Zhanar Akhmetova fled from Kazakhstan to Ukraine in March 2017.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Kazakhstan, in the period from March 2005 until October 2008, Zhanar Akhmetova scammed people for over 50 mn Kazakhstani tenge under the pretension of paying it back with interest.

In August 2010, a judicial body applied Article 72 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan and ruled to suspend the sentence until her child reached 14 years of age, specifically November 5, 2021. Zhanar Akhmetova, though, had been convicted for the first time for fraud in early 2000s. Back then, she wasn’t an active blogger on Facebook social network and wasn’t earning a reputation of an opposition journalist (you can find Akhmetova’s Facebook account by searching by her pseudonym – Zhanna Bota).

Svetlana Zalishchuk, an MP from Petro Poroshenko Bloc faction filed a motion on posting bail for Zhanar Akhmetova. She claims the woman is a victim of political repression. However, as it turns out, this ‘victim’ has her own, quite real, victims.

For instance, Akhmetova’s fellow countrywoman Raikhan Aitpayeva (https://365info.kz/2017/05/moshennitsa-na-doverii/) claims Akhmetova borrowed USD 20,000 from her and did not pay it back. She says that the law enforcement officials have several court rulings on recovering creditors’ debts from Zhanar Akhmetova. All her creditors cannot get their money back. At that, Raikhan was surprised to learn that Zhanna Bota’s older son just recently bought a new car.

Kazakhstani journalist Farida Batyrbayeva also suffered from Zhanar Akhmetova’s schemes on the real estate market. She spoke in detail about it in an interview for Kazakhstani publication Matritca (http://www.matritca.kz/news/43193-ya-perezhila-etu-bol-i-uzhe-otpustila-zhanaru-ahmet-bog-ey-sudya.html#).

Farida, you say you were a close friend of Zhanar Akhmetova and that, having trusted her, you lost a large amount of money and your health in the end. How did it happen?

– We met in the end of the 1990s, when Zhanna Akhmetova (that’s how she introduced herself back then) was implementing a number of educational projects in Kazakhstan, for instance organizing lectures of a famous educator Shalva Amonashvili. In fact, our families were friends. By 2006, she got into real estate and talked me into taking out a loan for purchasing an apartment for my student daughter in Almaty.

– And what happened?

– I took out two loans at 19% annual interest rate for the total amount of USD 79,000 at Alliance Bank. I transferred this money, at Zhanar’s insistence, from Astana to her bank account in Almaty. As it turned out later, she used this money for her own business. Then, I got excuses about ‘mortgage bubble bust’ and only two years later I managed to get an obligatory writing certified by a notary public for USD 83,000 from her, which I’ve kept…

– I’m sorry Farida, but you can’t be so naïve or blind!

– I’ve already beaten myself up about it so much, that your words can’t hurt me more… By the end of 2008, I was so fed up with ‘kilometers of lies and excuses’ from Zhanar that decided to turn to the financial police of Almaty with a group of women, who were scammed in the same way. No surprises there, I discovered in the internet that I was not the only one with claims against Zhanar Akhmet.

As I just sat down at the investigator’s office, I got a text from her: “You shouldn’t have done that; I wasn’t going to scam you.”

– What was your reaction?

– I did not quarrel or anything, I simply asked Zhanar to give my money back. By that time, I knew that she had some real estate, in particular, an apartment priced at USD 500,000 in the center of Almaty. As for my situation, I had to work day and night, overtime, in order to make loan payments on time and avoid penalties. I still shudder, thinking back on those years! To tell you the truth, more than once I wanted to end my life and only the thoughts of my children kept me going…

– But there was a trial at the end and the scammer was punished…

– At what price?! It took me two year of corresponding with the financial police, Prosecutor General’s Office, etc. Nobody wanted this case and I got standard dismissing replies. Every law enforcement body shifted responsibility to another body, as if there is no justice in the world.

Only by 2011, when a woman, who lent Zhanar Akhmet a million dollars, swore (as I was told) to take revenge, did the things in the case start moving. I don’t know how she did it, but she managed to put Zhanar Akhmet on trial. The court sentenced her to 7 years in prison, but since she was pregnant, she did not stay in prison long. She was soon released suspending her sentence ‘until the child is full of age’.

– What about compensation of debts? Did you and the others managed to get your money back?

– I don’t know about the others, but, despite confiscation of property, Zhanar did not pay me anything back, not even a penny. And I know for a fact, that she has another apartment, the USD 500,000 one, which she leases out.

And this is where something unexpected happens. When I ask Zhanar again to give me my money back, she first says she herself owes USD 900,000 and then starts accusing me of ‘executing some order’ and not letting her ‘regain her feet’!

– So, now she claims to have a political reason not to repay the debts?

– I absolutely don’t care what Kazakhstani citizen Zhanar Akhmet does. I just want my money back! That’s it! I went to great pains to repay the bank the debt over 10 years, which in the end amounted to nearly USD 170,000!

The next day, after repaying the loans, I started having health problems, but these are my problems… But what prevented citizen Akhmet to sell all her property and repay her debts like I did? Instead, I learned from a mutual acquaintance Bibigul that, when seeing her Zhanar Akhmet exclaimed: “Hey Bibka! I hope you waived my debt?” By this she meant USD 50,000 that she borrowed from her!

– Farida, as we know, your former friend is now in Kyiv, trying to obtain a political refugee status. So, this story you told may be perceived by her as another attempt to ‘leak’ information and scheming of special services of Kazakhstan. Clearly, you are unlikely to get your money back, so the logical question is what is all this for?

– I understand it all perfectly. By the way, Zhanar already wrote to me that I was ‘executing some order to destroy her’. But that’s her right, may God be the judge of that! I survived this pain and I let it go…

But as a human being, I will never be able to accept that Kazakhstan cannot offer effective protection for those who suffered from illegal actions of different fraudsters!

Why a citizen of my country has to spend years trying to seek justice in courts and prosecutor’s offer in an attempt to get their stolen money and property back? Why private property is not sacred and any infringement on it is not punished? Why, in order to get something, you must hold demonstrations or become an opposition member?

I guess, I’m still naïve to be asking these questions, but it cannot go on like that! But for now, I simply call on my countrymen not to lend money to anybody and not to believe any scammers, no matter how they are dressed and what arguments they use asking you for money.

By the way, Zhanar Akhmet again posted on her page in the social network an announcement about raising money for the lawyer… I personally don’t care, but I ask you to think, whether you should trust a person, who lied once?

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