How Faked Documents Ensnared A Billionaire In Kazakhgate Scandal04:20 14.10.2020
When the billionaire Patokh Chodiev was named as part of a Belgian political scandal it created a media frenzy but a new investigation has revealed that the affair may have been based on fake documents.
The Kazakhgate scandal rocked the political elites of Belgium and France and triggered enormous media coverage but a report published by the French investigative magazine Mediapart has found that on at least three occasions documents relating to the case were faked.
Without these fakes it is unlikely that the affair would have erupted in the same way, or that it would have damaged Chodiev’s reputation.
The scandal dates back to the early 1990s when Chodiev and his partners, who created a successful mining company in Kazakhstan, settled in Belgium and took citizenship. The Belgian authorities launched an investigation into some real estate transactions and Chodiev and his partners were charged for breaching financial laws.
The case dragged on for 16 years but was eventually settled in 2011 after Belgium had introduced a new plea bargain law. Chodiev and his partners paid a fee and the case was settled with no admittance of guilt.
It was subsequently claimed that Belgium politicians had introduced the new plea bargain law, and applied it to the Chodiev case, after coming under pressure from the French, who wanted the businessman’s help in securing a big aerospace contract with Kazakhstan. Belgium’s media were outraged that their country’s laws may have been influenced by French officials who wanted to land a big manufacturing deal.
The evidence for this alleged quid-pro-quo deal came from email exchanges between Jean-Francois Etienne des Rosaies, an adviser to the French President, and Claude Guéant, chief of staff to the President.
In the emails, Des Rosaies writes that the legal team arranged for Chodiev by the French had successfully concluded the case with the help of a Belgian senator, Armand de Decker.
These allegations were sufficiently serious that the Belgian parliament launched an inquiry into the affair. In testimony to the Parliamentary Inquiry Committee (PIC), Guéant disputed the authenticity of the Des Rosaies emails and said he had no recollection of receiving them. He stated that French assistance to Chodiev went only so far as introducing him to a new lawyer, Catherine Degoul. Degoul then hired Senator De Decker without Chodiev’s knowledge.
Des Rosaies has also filed a complaint stating that the email was a forgery and the PIC found there had been no improper influence over the introduction of the plea bargain law.
Another fake appeared soon after in 2013 when Le Vif reported that a French diplomat called Damien Loras had received a gold Jacquet Droz watch worth €44,000 as a gift from Chodiev. Loras had been part of the Élysée team tasked with helping Chodiev in Belgium.
The newspaper published a copy of the receipt for the watch allegedly bought by Chodiev at Kronometry 1999 in Paris. The implication appears to have been that Chodiev was attempting to bribe a French official to help him in the Belgian case.
However, the receipt is a fake and uses a different letterhead and format to those issued by Kronometry. According to Mediapart: “Somebody went to significant effort to create a fake receipt in order to implicate Chodiev and Loras in a supposedly corrupt relationship.”
Yet another fake appears to have triggered a separate part of the Kazakhgate scandal. It was reported that Chodiev had inappropriately obtained Belgian citizenship in the 1990s and this claim was also investigated by the Belgian Parliamentary Inquiry Committee (PIC).
The PIC found that two police reports had been filed in relation to Chodiev’s citizenship application. The first report was by a police sergeant who recommended a delay based on information provided by the State Security Service on Chodiev’s unproven links to the Russian mafia.
The other report was supposedly written by Michel Vanderwalle, commissioner of the Waterloo Police, and gave a positive report on Chodiev. It was claimed that Chodiev had persuaded a Belgian politician to put pressure on Vanderwalle to write the positive report.
Both of these reports appear designed to cause Chodiev problems and, in testimony to the Parliamentary inquiry, Vanderwalle confirmed that both were forgeries.
The Belgian intelligence committee has also expressed doubts about the authenticity of the two police reports and the PIC concluded that Chodiev had been granted citizenship properly.
These documents triggered a political scandal that appears to have been built on lies and fakes. As Mediapart noted, if the underlying documents in this affair are fakes this raises questions over who created them and why they went to so much effort?
It appears that shadowy players in Europe and Kazakhstan have taken advantage of the media’s willingness to publish faked documents in order to damage the reputations of leading politicians and businessmen.