Kenes Rakishev: The President’s Man for All Seasons

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Kenes Rakishev. An entrepreneur, philanthropist, former special envoy for Kazakhstan, head of the Kazakh boxing federation, a family man, and most importantly, a man of success. The backstory of Kenes Rakishev and his philanthropies is a complex one, with multiple factors and numerous actors involved.

The 40-something Kazakh is an interesting study of human success. Ultra boyishly shy, he is the poster boy of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s “New Kazakhstan” vision for the future and better Kazakhstan. He received his education in the UK, fortunately married into the Kazakhstan elite clan and positioned quietly in the affairs of the state. Kenes’ wife, Aselle Tasmagambetova is the daughter of the former prime minister and holds a success story of her own. Together, the couple represents the future blueprint of a modern centrality at the crossroads of Central Asia, Europe and Asia, and still deeply embedded in Kazakh culture.

Besides his fast stellar rise to fame, Kenes Rakishev has his ups and downs. Though it seems there is more ups than downs but unfortunately, he is targeted by smear campaigns by international hackers and fake news campaigns ‘journalists-for-hire’ funded by powerful crime figures. Such was the reality of his life. There were bizarre claims even made by one of Europe’s experienced journalists, which resulted in a public apology to the Kazakh former special envoy to US.

“Kenes Rakishev is an interesting study of human success. A well-known entrepreneur, kind philanthropist, former special envoy for Kazakhstan, head of the Kazakh boxing federation and most importantly, a family man.”

Looking past the many smears and attempts of insults, Kenes Rakishev is a successful businessman and tech investor in Kazakhstan, with interests in various industries, including mining, technology, and finance. Both husband and wife are actively involved in philanthropy work and generously supporting various causes and organizations in Kazakhstan and abroad.

However, Rakishev’s success and wealth have also made him a target of criticisms and scrutinies, especially in the context of Kazakhstan’s complex political and economic landscape. Some critics have accused him of benefiting financially and socially from his close ties with the Kazakh government.

Amidst the false reports, it is important to note that he and his family have not been charged or sanctioned by any U.S. or European government. Due to his tech savviness and careful business acumen, he rose to become an influential and well-connected individual in Kazakhstan. He was never involved in any illegal or unethical activities. While he may have had dinners and taken photographs with political leaders, it was all done all in a day’s work for Kenes whose aim was to do his job as appointed by the President Tokayev and the Kazakh government.

One such controversy was his so-called connection with an organized crime figure, Felix Sater. Sater has criminal history links to organized crime in New York, acted as an informer on the New York mob, the Russians and bizarrely, Osama bin Laden too protected him from jailtime. In 2019, a federal judge unsealed a 5k1 letter that outlined the extent of Felix Sater’s cooperation with law enforcement authorities. His cooperation was taken into consideration during his sentencing. Evidently, Sater’s testimonies on the mob at the U.S. House Intelligence Committee were viewed with some skepticism. In 2019, Vice ran an article that raised questions about Sater’s credibility and the accuracy of his claims. The article highlighted concerns about Sater’s criminal history, his associations with organized crime figures, and his tendency to exaggerate or fabricate his connections to influential individuals. While Sater’s credibility may be debatable, however it does not invalidate his statements and claims.

And then there’s Mukhtar Ablyazov, Rakishev’s long drawn political opponent. Once a media darling of the liberal press, his novelty has worn off. He was chairman of the board of directors at BTA Bank, where he was later found guilty of embezzlement and money laundering of the bank’s funds. Ablyazov was found guilty and convicted in the U.K and in the United States, while the future for this fraudster and his associates looks dim in France. In early March 2022 a French court rejected his political claims and request for political asylum.

The U.K. Supreme court opening statement pointed out that Ablyazov executed an “elaborate attempt to conceal his assets” to avoid prosecution by the bank, at the time when the bank, BTA was nationalized. The U.K. courts frowned upon Ablyazov and his associates’ positions. The appeals by the Mukhtar Ablyazov and his associates were rejected by the U.K. Supreme court.

Mukhtar Ablyazov has since fled from U.K after a 22-month jail sentence in the UK court was handed down. Currently, he is rumored to be in political exile in either France or Spain. On December 9, 2016, the highest French court (Conseil d’Etat) banned the extradition of Ablyazov to Russia and Ukraine. The U.K. court orders chose to explicitly illustrate the frauds committed by Mukhtar Ablyazov.

While Ablyazov was under investigations, the Kazakh administration executed a controlling stake holding on BTA Bank and appointed at the time a person the Kazakh state trusted. Kenes Rakishev was this man. Rakishev managed to save the company, fixed it and sold his stake. Mergers and acquisitions are his specialty after all.

“It was a national security crisis”, a person close to the matter spoke on grounds of anonymity. “Despite the western media celebrating Mukhtar Ablyazov as somewhat a hero, the truth is rather different”, she said. The criminal courts in the United Kingdom, the United States and now France has taken him into account, thus the ex-banker has limited room to move around in the European Union.

“The president looked around and when it came to the critical moment, he turned to Kenes Rakishev to save the employees, the bank and honestly, Kazakhstan. It was a national security crisis. Rakishev has done his job and he was compensated, which is normal.” she added. “Once the job was done, he left, sold his shares and he went back to look after his family.” So Kenes saved the day. And the bank.