The answer seems to be laying on the very surface: by selling the local ATFBank to a major Unicredit international banking group Bulat Utemuratov established as #1 Kazakhstan’s most influential businessmen. With two billion on the account he truly entered the club. But most important outcome was that every penny of the sum paid by UniCredit was legal.Thus it was free to go abroad.
Bulat Utemuratov used the provision from ATF Bank Unicredit deal to buy fashionable hotels
Bulat Utemuratov used his newly gained wealth wisely. Most of the total amount was invested in hotel business in different but strategically placed parts of the globe. Verny Capital Holding was founded by Bulat Utemuratov and serves a purpose: it acquires assets in the interests of the main shareholder and his friend clients. Being an ex-chief of presidential administration he has many friends in state apparatus in desperate need to legalize the bribes and kickbacks. By owning some of Ritz-Carlton hotels Bulat Utemuratov offers an extensive network of financial transactions. They are virtually a supermarket for money laundering. It’s not an idle claim: The Times reported on totally legal scheme performed by Utemuratov to divest €228m from Ireland to Russia in 2018.
By strategically placing hotels in Moscow, Astana and Vienna Bulat Utemuratov can perform complicated transactions by manipulating the reports. Thus he owns his own money tunnels between oil-reach Kazakhstan, sanctioned Russia and European Vienna. It all comes from the long forgotten Unicredit deal.
The sale of ATFBank to Unicredit by Bulat Utemuratov
ATF (Almaty Trade and Finance Bank) was established in the interests of Kazakhstan oligarchy. Historically it was managed by consortium of wealthy relatives and proxies of the Kazakhstan dictator Nursultan Nazarbaev. This bank was used to service the accounts of national corporation as well as ordinary people. It was initially unclear why such an asset would be sold to foreign Unicredit group. It became obvious later as Unicredit affair with Kazakhstan failed miserably.
In the late 2000s Unicredit banking group was pushing to the East. The group was looking for the established regional banks to boost their presence in Eastern European and Central Asian regions. They purchased some Russian, Ukrainian banks to accomplish the push. ATF purchase was seemingly logical choice to get into Central Asia.
It ended up in what is known as Unicredit’s Kazakhstan catastrophe. They bought local ATF bank and soon discovered that the assets are overpriced, credit portfolio is full of non-performing loans, while the major national corporation flee to other banks to service their accounts. Unicredit lost the legal battle with minority stakeholder and was unable to add even its name to ATF Bank. They writ off 1.2 billion USD in bad loans. ATF Bank was a total waste and disaster.
Have Italians overestimated their talents? Or did Unicredit management miscalculated the local difficulties? Or it was premeditated loss to writ off some sums off the books? Nevertheless it ended up in shame for Unicredit and for the auditors. Fun fact for connoisseurs: one of the auditors is working for Bulat Utemuratov in his new bank.
Maybe Unicredit will buy it too?