An ex-Ambassador of Kazakhstan in Austria who is also a former son-in-law of Kazakhstan’s President and a fugitive Kazakh tycoon Rakhat Aliyev has been found dead in the Austrian prison of Josefstadt, Tengrinews reports citing RIA Novosti. Aliyev was 52. According to preliminary information, it was a suicide.
Austrian Kurier reports that Aliyev was found hanging in his cell. The information about his death was confirmed by a Viennese judge.
Aliyev was moved from a three-person to a solitary confinement at his own request shortly before the incident. The day before his death, Klaus Ainedter, his lawyer’s son visited Aliyev to discuss his case.
According to Heute, the body of the ex-Ambassador was discovered at 7.20 a.m. on February 23 - on a hook for clothes. Other media reports say he was found on February 24.
Hearings on the case of two prisoners accused of extortion against the now dead Rakhat Aliyev, an runaway tycoon from Kazakhstan, were scheduled to take place in Vienna Land Court.
Rakhat Aliyev was found hanging in his solitary confinement, where he moved at his own request from the three-person cell a few weeks ago. According to media reports, he moved because of death threats against him.
"The process was scheduled for today, but unfortunately, Aliyev was unable to attend because he was already dead at that point,” press secretary of Vienna Land Court Christina Zaltsborn said. She informed that the two prisoners allegedly threatened Aliyev to get him to make a money transfer. The two, however, said they did not know who Aliyev was or what he was accused of. Their lawyer declared that they demanded a compensation for the help and money they offered him in the beginning of his detention, she said.
Corrections Department Director Peter Prechtl said that Aliyev's body was found at 7:20 a.m in Vienna's Josefstadt prison in his bathroom. Aliyev’s solitary confinement was located in the prison’s hospital unit. Prechtl said he could not disclose the medical conditions of Aliyev for reasons of confidentiality. He also said that the ex-ambassador was assigned a “green” status, which meant he was not at risk of suicide.
Austrian police arrested Rakhat Aliyev in Vienna on June 5 last year after he voluntarily handed himself in. As reported by the Prosecutor General's Office of Kazakhstan, his arrest was connected to the investigation into the abduction and murder of top managers of Nurbank, a Kazakh bank once under Aliyev’s leadership. The two bankers – Zholdas Timraliyev and Aybar Khasenov disappeared in January 2007. Their bodies were found only in May 2011.
The Austrian prosecutors officially presented their double-murder charges against Aliyev in December last year. In case of conviction, Aliyev was facing at least 10 years in prison.
He had repeatedly claimed that the whole case against him was politically motivated. In addition, he also said there was an international conspiracy involving both Kazakh and European politicians against him. The Austrian authorities checked this possibility but excluded it in their draft indictment after finding a clear financial motive in the murder of the two bankers.
Rakhat Aliyev was convicted for the double-murder of Khasenov and Timraliyev in Kazakhstan in 2008. He was also convicted for several other grave crimes in his homeland. The charges included treason and preparing a coup that all added to 40 years imprisonment. The court sentences in Kazakhstan were handed down in absentia however, as Aliyev was hiding abroad since spring 2007.
After Rakhat Aliyev was arrested in Austria, where he served as the ambassador of Kazakhstan for several years until 2007, Kazakhstan filed several extradition requests, but they were all denied. The Austrian authorities asked Kazakhstan not to interfere with their investigation, to which the Kazakh authorities replied that they stood ready to aid the Austrians in the investigation if needed.
World media monitoring