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2005-01-04 07:46:00
US Office Almaty
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						UNCLAS  ALMATY 000024 



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) Summary: The December 19 death of Bank TuranAlem
(BTA) president Erzhan Tatishev in a hunting accident has
put the local rumor mill into high gear. Despite calming
words from representatives of the bank, the second largest
in Kazakhstan, the accident has received a great deal of
media attention and spawned even more speculation. Three
theories compete as the "true" cause behind the death:
hunting accident; elimination by economic rivals; and
politically-motivated killing. Controversy, however,
surrounded Tatishev long before the accident, due to his
membership in opposition political party Democratic Choice
of Kazakhstan (DCK) and his ties with exiled DCK leader
Mukhtar Ablyazov. The results of a criminal investigation,
standard procedure in such deaths, will probably due little
to convince skeptics. End summary.

2. (U) On Sunday, December 19, Tatishev was killed in a
hunting accident in Zhambyl Oblast, about 260 kilometers
east of Almaty. According to a preliminary police
investigation Tatishev was allegedly shot in an accidental
discharge while trying to pass a 12-gauge shotgun to a
passenger. Supposedly, the passenger wanted to shoot wolves
passing in the distance.


The Official Version of Events


3. (U) Police, at least until they finish their
investigation, and bank officials claim no foul play.
Within hours of Tatishev's death, a special session of the
BTA Board of Directors appointed Deputy Chairman of the
Board, Saduakas Mameshtegi, acting Chairman. At a December
20 press conference, BTA Chairman of Board of Directors
Ualiev said that he and the board "completely exclude any
political motivation" behind the tragedy. Furthermore, he
rejected business rivalry as the cause behind the death: "Of
course he had rivals and those who thought ill of them, but
we cannot and do not want to link that with this tragedy."
In a further statement, the bank vowed to adhere to its
present business strategy.

4. (U) Police, for the present, are investigating the
incident as negligence, not as a murder or conspiracy.
Authorities are conducting their investigation under Article
101, para. 1 "Causing death through negligence."

5. (SBU) Nevertheless, both friends and colleagues are
baffled by the sheer negligence that allegedly led to the
death. Colleagues of the deceased told Kazinform, a state
news agency, that Tatishev was an experienced hunter who
spent every free weekend hunting. In addition, a
representative of a Western bank in Kazakhstan, who had
hunted with Tatishev, thought such an accident highly

unlikely. He told Econoff that Tatishev handled weapons
safely and professionally. According to the Western banker,
it was unlikely Tatishev would have been so reckless in
handling a loaded firearm.


Eliminating a Competitor?


6. (SBU) Various print sources claim that business rivals
removed Tatishev because of the growing presence of BTA.
The web paper "Navi.Kz" writes that, "its the
CIS could not but put the banking structures of the CIS on
their guard." Under Tatishev, BTA became a leading bank in
Kazakhstan and expanded its activities throughout the CIS.
In addition to existing branches in Moscow, Kiev, Minsk,
Bishkek and Shanghai, BTA also plans to open offices in
Yekaterinburg, Kazan, Chisinau, Baku and Dushanbe. On
December 16, Tatishev initiated a multi-million dollar
financing deal with Leningrad Oblast.

7. (U) Tatishev owned 24% of BTA's shares, which will now
apparently be passed to his heirs. When asked at the press
conference about future management of TatQhev's BTA stake,
Ualiev said that "there are some juridical nuances, and
probably it will be handled via proxy by the bank's


Eliminating a Political Figure?


8. (SBU) Others point to Tatishev's links to opposition
party Democratic Choice of Kazakhstan (DCK). Tatishev had
long-standing commercial links with Mukhtar Ablyazov, a DCK

founder, former Minister of Energy and Industry (1998-99),
and businessman. In 2002, Ablyazov was charged with misusing
his post as Minister and later convicted in what most
observers viewed as a politically-motivated case. In a
recent broadcast, Kazakhstan state television drew a link
between Ablyazov's May 2004 release from prison and BTA's
subsequent increase in activity such as expansion in the
CIS. In 2002, Tatishev broke with DCK, saying that
participation in a political party was inappropriate for a
professional businessman. On December 2, 2004, the BTA
Chairman, together with the heads of six other banks, signed
a statement that the banking sector should not be involved
into politics.

9. (SBU) Controversy and rumors swirled around Tatishev even
before his death. In May 2003, the sensationalist web site reported that Tatishev had absconded
to the U.S. with the bank's funds. BTA denied the rumor,
stating that the Chairman was on a business trip to the U.S.
The rumor's authors linked Tatishev's trip with the early
release of Ablyazov. In addition, an attempt was made on
the banker's life in June 2002 when gunmen attacked his
official car. Fortunately for Tatishev, he was not in the
car at the time. Following the incident, police theorized
the attack had been due to political motives.

10. (SBU) Comment: Given the penchant here for conspiracy
theories, even the results of the official investigation are
unlikely to clear the air around Tatishev's death. Few in
Kazakhstan, however, believe the accident to have been the
result of a brief moment of bad judgment. The alleged
circumstances of the accident - passing a loaded shotgun
while driving a jeep - are close to incomprehensible,
particularly in light of Tatishev's renown as a hunter. The
fate of BTA and of Tatishev's 24% share will, most likely,
prove the best explanation to his untimely death. End

11. (U) Dushanbe minimize considered.