Prince's home in 'laundered cash' inquiry
Foggo, Daniel. Sunday Times [London (UK)] 08 May 2011: 4.
THE Swiss authorities have launched a criminal investigation into allegations of money laundering by the Kazakh billionaire who bought Prince Andrew's house for Pounds 3m over the asking price.
The inquiry is being conducted into the activities of Timur Kulibayev, who is a son-in-law of the Kazakh president. It follows evidence in London's High Court which claims that "laundered money" was used to buy Sunninghill Park, Andrew's former marital home, for Pounds 15m.
The Swiss investigation was launched last September. It is understood that the inquiry mirrors the claims made in the High Court, raising the possibility of the Duke of York being embroiled in a criminal investigation. There is no suggestion that Andrew knew the origin of the funds Kulibayev used to buy Sunninghill.
The Kazakh endeavoured to keep his purchase of the property secret, by hiding his ownership through a network of offshore companies. He denied he was involved until The Sunday Times last year obtained documents proving that he was behind it.
Allegations that money was laundered through the purchase of Sunninghill first emerged during a legal battle between Mukhtar Ablyazov, a Kazakh billionaire, and BTA Bank, which he formerly ran.
The bank is now owned by the Kazakh state, which claims that Ablyazov embezzled up to several billion dollars.
BTA is pursuing him through the British courts, which have frozen Ablyazov's assets. The Kazakh authorities are seeking his extradition to face criminal charges, which he denies, saying they are politically motivated.
A statement by Ruslan Zaindi Tsarni, a US lawyer who has had dealings in Kazakh business affairs, was given in the High Court in December. He claimed that Kulibayev bought Sunninghill and properties in Mayfair with $96m (Pounds 59m), which derived from a complex series of deals allegedly intended to disguise money laundering.
He alleged that the money came from the takeover of a western company, which had been used as a front to obtain oil contracts from the Kazakh state.
Kulibayev's legal team have dismissed the claims.
Buckingham Palace has insisted that the purchase of Sunninghill Park was a straightforward transaction with no side deals. A spokesman for Kulibayev declined to comment.
Credit: Daniel Foggo