Tonio Borg thrust into the limelight of hunt for Kazakh billionaire over Maltese residence permit.
Lothar de Maizière, the first - and last - democratically elected prime minster of East Germany before reunification, has lambasted Malta's "lax handling of rich human rights violators" as he prepares to bring to Malta an international campaign to bring former Kazakh diplomat and billionaire Rakhat Aliyev (pictured below) to justice.
Today a Berlin lawyer representing former Kazakhstan prime minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin and his two bodyguards, the Christian-democrat politician has hit out at the choice of Malta's foreign minister Tonio Borg as commissioner-designate to the EU, ostensibly on the residence permit awarded to Aliyev who for some time was a resident in Malta with his wife.
Aliyev, formerly the son-in-law of Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev, is also being investigated by Austrian prosecutors on suspicion of having commissioned the double-murder of two bankers; while De Maizière is seeking his prosecution for allegedly torturing Kazhegeldin's bodyguards as an act of revenge against the Kazakh prime minister.
Several victims' campaigns are 'hunting' down Aliyev to bring him to justice and focus has now turned to Malta:
"Six months ago I was in Malta to rebuke the sloppy investigation that was being carried out on Aliyev. At that time I was told that the Maltese Attorney General will handle the Aliyev case... nothing has been done so far," de Maizière said.
MaltaToday has previously reported that Austrian prosecutor Bettina Wallner questioned Aliyev at the Maltese courts for three days in April 2012 over the bankers' murder investigation.
Reports to Malta's financial intelligence analysis unit, headed by Attorney General Peter Grech, have also been made by another victims' campaign tracking down an alleged money laundering network.
"This should trigger some form of reflection," de Maizière said of the coming hearing of Tonio Borg in the European Parliament.
"Had Aliyev been some counterfeiter he would be prosecuted immediately. But not when he is accused of such serious cases of human rights violations. I find this scandalous and extremely unfair, because it looks like human rights violators can travel from one EU country to the other with impunity."
As Borg prepares for his hearing before MEPs on 13 November, the foreign minister has been thrust into the limelight of the Austrian-German interest in Aliyev: mainly because he is listed as a court witness in a case brought by Aliyev's former lawyer Pio Valletta, against Aliyev and his wife Elnara Shorazova for unpaid legal fees. Raising suspicions about Aliyev's sojourn in Malta is the fact that Valletta charged the nothing short of a cool €150,000 because of the "difficulties" he encountered in procuring the residence permit, "due to the non-approval from the police authorities" on account of an Interpol alert that had been issued against Aliyev.
The Interpol alert has been since repealed.
But this detail would have formed the basis of a bold question put to the European Commission's spokesperson on Tuesday afternoon by a euractiv.com senior editor who asked whether Brussels was aware that "MEPs were investigating allegations of a €150,000 bribe" paid to Borg. The commissioner-designate has denied such an allegation as a "gross calumny and a lie".
Although at the time of application it was evident that the police had not issued approval for the permit, at some point this objection was overturned: indeed assistant commissioner Andrew Seychell, responsible for the visa section, was also summoned as a witness in the Pio Valletta case.
The foreign ministry's spokesperson Melvyn Mangion (who is summoned in this civil lawsuit as a witness as well) had told MaltaToday both him and Borg never met either Pio Valletta or Alijev to issue the residence status. "Alijev has a residence permit issued by the Austrian government, he is married to an EU citizen, and as such enjoys freedom of movement and residence," Mangion had told MaltaToday.
"Should Austrian authorities issue a European arrest warrant this will be executed by the Maltese authorities. Should new irregularities arise other than those on which the extradition request was based, this residence permit will be reviewed."