“Emails raise fresh questions about mining group’s Kazakh ties”

Exchanges indicate staff at listed group were asked to make holiday arrangements for top officials in London and Paris

The Financial Times previously reported that in 2011 Kazakhmys organised for the family of Kazakhstan’s then PM Karim Massimov, pictured, to fly to France by private jet, visit Disneyland Paris and stay at the George V hotel © FT montage; Getty, Bloomberg

Fresh evidence has emerged indicating staff at a London-listed mining company made personal holiday arrangements for the rulers of Kazakhstan, where it owns lucrative copper rights.In September, the Financial Times reported that in 2011 Kazakhmys organised for the family of Kazakhstan’s then prime minister Karim Massimov to fly to France by private jet, visit Disneyland Paris and stay at the George V hotel, triggering scrutiny under the UK’s anti-bribery law. The Serious Fraud Office said it was “aware of the allegations” but declined to comment further.

Now an email exchange seen by the FT reveals that two years later the same Kazakh official sent instructions to the company’s boss regarding a trip to London. By then, Mr Massimov had become chief of staff to Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The new questions these emails raise about whether the company — which has since been renamed Kaz Minerals — broke UK anti-corruption laws come as its billionaire founder, Vladimir Kim, leads a £3bn bid to take it private again 15 years after its London listing.

In November 2013, an aide to Mr Massimov wrote to Eduard Ogay, the executive director at Kazakhmys who had in 2011 taken instructions on the Paris trip. This time, the aide explained, the Massimovs wanted to go to London. He told Mr Ogay to arrange a hotel, transport and “cultural programme” for the family. Both used personal email addresses in the exchange of messages, which were part of a large online leak in 2014 but have only now come to light.

One of the emails suggests Mr Massimov may have called off the London trip. But, as with the messages discussing the 2011 holiday, the exchange suggests such instructions from a top Kazakh official to the head of a UK public company were routine.

The company said it had investigated the 2011 episode — a trip worth some $100,000 — and “found no evidence of payment by the company (or by any of its employees)” for the holiday, but did not establish who did pay for it.

On the 2013 exchange, the company said: “We have not seen any of the private email correspondence in question and have no evidence of company time or resources being involved.”

The FT has also seen a £30,000 bill for a 2006 stay by Mr Nazarbayev, president of Kazakhstan at the time, at the Lanesborough hotel on Hyde Park Corner in London that was sent to the company. The company said it “made a legitimate contribution to an official presidential visit to the UK in 2006, which included a visit to Kazakhmys’ offices in London”.

Tom Mayne, a Kazakhstan expert who uncovered the 2006 Lanesborough bill, said that in the ex-Soviet republic some businesses — known as “pocket companies” — were “required to pay for whatever top government officials require”. He said the holiday instructions “raise questions about what was known by the company’s British managers and auditors, and how far the company went in trying to please Kazakh leaders”.

UK mining group arranged Paris trip for Kazakh prime minister’s family

Kazakhmys organised private jet, Disneyland visit and George V hotel stay, drawing scrutiny under anti-bribery law

A FTSE 100 mining company arranged for the family of the Kazakh prime minister to fly to France by private jet, visit Disneyland Paris and stay at the George V hotel, triggering scrutiny under the UK’s anti-bribery law. Leaked 2011 emails between the office of then Kazakh prime minister Karim Massimov and employees at Kazakhmys have been passed by a Kazakh dissident to the UK’s Serious Fraud Office, which handles cases of suspected corruption.

Kazakhmys was the biggest miner of Kazakhstan’s copious stocks of copper, its business dependent on the continued favour of the Kazakh regime. After floating in London in 2005, it became one of the UK’s most valuable companies, worth $10bn. Kazakhmys was bound by the Bribery Act, which makes it a crime to offer any “advantage” to an official of a foreign state to advance business interests. The very same day that the law came into effect on July 1 2011, an aide to Mr Massimov sent an email to Eduard Ogay, then executive director of Kazakhmys. “The chief has assigned me to work with you on the departure of his family of 4 people to Paris,” Mr Massimov’s aide wrote. The prime minister would not be going himself but his family had specific requirements that included “the best 12-seater aeroplane” and three adjoining hotel rooms.  

That email and others seen by the Financial Times show that Kazakhmys employees proceeded to make the arrangements as instructed. The trip would have cost about $100,000. The incident remained secret for years. Kazakhmys spun off some of its mines to a private company and changed the public company’s name to Kaz Minerals, retaining its London listing, in 2014.

That year, a vast leak of emails seemingly hacked from the accounts of Kazakh officials appeared on an obscure website. Looking through them years later, Kazakh dissidents came across the messages revealing the Massimov holiday. In 2019 they sent them to the SFO as well as to the company. A spokesman for Kaz Minerals said the company had conducted “a thorough review of all available correspondence and financial records as soon as it became aware of this matter.

This review, since which no new information has come to light, found no evidence of payment by the company (or by any of its employees) for these travel arrangements, and no evidence of a request for, or expectation of, payment by the company or by any of its employees for these travel arrangements.” Twice weekly newsletter Energy is the world’s indispensable business and Energy Source is its newsletter. Every Tuesday and Thursday, direct to your inbox, Energy Source brings you essential news, forward-thinking analysis and insider intelligence. 

up here. The spokesman said the company did not know who did pay for the holiday nor why its staff had been asked to organise it. He declined to say whether the company had investigated whether there had been other instances of employees providing services to government officials. Two leading UK lawyers who work on corruption cases said they would expect the SFO’s investigators to seek more details.

Even if the company did not pay for the holiday, its employees had still given their time to Mr Massimov, though the two expert lawyers said prosecutors would be unlikely to pursue a corruption investigation on that score alone. But if a company or its representatives were found to have funded such a holiday, “that could be a bribe by the company in favour of a public official”, said Ruby Hamid, a former prosecutor who is now a partner at Ashurst.  The SFO said: “We are aware of the allegations but can provide no further comment.” In general, the SFO added, “while any gift or favour could arguably be considered a bribe”, decisions to prosecute were taken only when there was sufficient evidence and public interest “in the light of all the circumstances”. Mr Massimov did not respond to a request for comment. Mr Ogay now runs the private vehicle that holds the spun-off mining assets, which referred questions to Kaz Minerals.