DW exclusive: Nazarbayev family owns German luxury real estate | Asia | An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW

The interior of Schloss Seelach is absolutely nothing limited of amazing, boasting frescoes, majestic lights, stucco and fine wooden ceiling panels. The pick number of who’ve been permitted to look at the refurbished assets say it is a person of the most extraordinary edifices in the German city of Baden-Baden.

The spa town in southwestern Germany, steeped in tradition with ties to what was the moment czarist Russia, continues to be a location of longing for multimillionaires from the write-up-Soviet realm.

Through the 19th century, Schloss Seelach served as the summertime residence of Mikhail Khreptovich, a very well-highly regarded Russian diplomat. Afterward, the grandiose constructing remained vacant for various many years and fell into disrepair, right until it was bought up and restored to its former glory by “Kazakh buyers,” as local newspapers reported at the time.

Schloss Seelach in 2004, prior to its restoration

The new Kazakh homeowners expended ten decades creating the property, setting up a number of big household buildings beside the historic palace, and creating a vast backyard garden finish with a h2o fountain. They also had a 1,000 sq. meter underground spa created on the grounds a glass dome masking the 25-meter-very long swimming pool is so significant it can be spotted on satellite imagery.

Investments totaling €100 million

The German commercial registry suggests that Schloss Seelach GmbH, which retains and manages the residence, observed an maximize in share money of €60 million ($52 million).

“They used a whole lot of revenue,” a Baden-Baden resource advised DW. The specific, who needs to continue to be anonymous, was involved in establishing the property a number of years back. He claims loads of images have been taken to doc the development and despatched to the house owners.

“One time, they were unhappy with just one of the frescoes, so every little thing had to be carried out above, although €150,000 had by now been paid out [for the job]”, a unique supply advised DW.

DW observed that the Kazakh investors personal a few additional houses in the area, among the them two excellent edifices less than specific protection: a villa at the time owned by architect Gustav Stroh, constructed in the early 20th century and Schlosshotel Bühlerhöhe. In complete, the Kazakh house owners invested above €100 million in four villas, as the German commercial registry shows.

Estates match for a president

“All this is owned by a single spouse and children by the family members, if you know what I necessarily mean,” 1 resource informed DW. The gentleman, who needs to preserve his id solution, when labored for the Kazakh traders. He only alludes to what he knows.

Lowering his voice, as if fearing a person may perhaps be eavesdropping, he informed DW: “All this is match for a president.”

Villa Stroh in Baden-Baden Lichtenau

Villa Stroh back again in the year 2004

Kazakhstan-centered Verus Praedium International, in flip owned by the Kazach Kipros enterprise, is a shareholder in the Schloss Seelach Make investments GmbH. The German transparency registry — recognized only a number of several years back as element of an EU-wide push to beat cash laundering — reveals Timur Kulibayev to be the helpful proprietor of this network of companies.

He is married to ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev’s daughter Dinara, building him his son-in-regulation.

A nationwide cultural monument

The transparency registry shows that Timur and his wife are joint valuable proprietors of a next German corporation, the Bühlerhöhe Castle Make investments GmbH. Mercury Houses, a Kazakh actual estate business, is a shareholder in Bühlerhöhe Castle Spend GmbH, and owns two inns close to Baden-Baden.

One of them, Schlosshotel Bühlerhöhe, is outlined as a national cultural monument. Germany’s former chancellor, Konrad Adenauer, was a normal at this institution. 

In late 2013, the lodge was purchased by Kazakh traders, building it the fourth and remaining property to adjust hands. For a lengthy time, Nazarbayev’s relationship to this smaller authentic estate empire remained unfamiliar.

It was, having said that, identified that Kazakh oil magnate Yakov Tskhay was a shareholder in firms owning the various German resorts and palaces. A Kazakh ministry of finance databases demonstrates that he acted as a junior partner alongside Timur Kulibayev and his spouse Dina in a variety of true estate offers.

Oil magnate transfers possession

The 71-yr-old Yakov Tskhay was the ideal applicant for making this sort of vast investments with out attracting attention. In truth, you can not even locate a photograph of Tskhay on the world wide web.

For yrs, millions flowed by Tskhay’s Dostar-Devote keeping and Dostar Oil Services into Baden-Baden houses. The business registry demonstrates Tskhay’s German actual estate providers saw their share money mature to about €100 million ($113 million).

Schloss Seelach after extensive repairs and construction work

Schloss Seelach right after comprehensive repairs and construction function

 

In 2020, when all construction operate on Schloss Seelach was accomplished, Tskhay transferred his shares in Schloss Seelach Devote GmbH to Verus Praedium Intercontinental, owned by Timur Kulibayev. One calendar year earlier, he experienced likewise transferred 90% of shares held in Bühlerhöhe Castle Make investments GmbH — operator of Bühl Schlosshotel — to Mercury Houses, a Kazakh corporation owned by Timur Kulibayev and his spouse.

DW arrived at out to the serious estate corporation in dilemma to study about the good reasons for the ownership transfer, nevertheless received no reply. According to the Mercury Qualities sites, the enterprise has no German accommodations in its genuine estate portfolio.

A potent son-in-regulation

Sandschar Bokajev, a nicely-recognized Kazakh investigative blogger and political commentator, thinks Timur Kulibayev is very little more than a straw person. He suggests there is a considerable possibility of corruption when influential Kazakh businessmen preserve these types of shut ties to Nursultan Nazarbayev’s relatives.

“Nazarbayev’s family associates and folks shut to them have been privatizing the oil and gasoline sector, but also other natural sources as properly as metallurgy,” Bokajev instructed DW. He ongoing to say that “everybody in Kazakhstan is aware of that with no Timur Kulibayev’s authorization no one can get involved in the oil business.”

Nursultan Nazarbayev's son-in-law Timur Kulibayev

Nursultan Nazarbayev’s son-in-legislation Timur Kulibayev

Kulibayev chairs Kazenergy, an affiliation symbolizing Kazakhstan’s oil, fuel and electrical power companies. Right up until January this yr, he also served as chairman of Atameken, the Kazakh chamber of field and commerce, which commands considerable financial as nicely as political impact.

Timur Kulibayev and his spouse are the country’s richest pair. Forbes estimates that together, the two own practically $6 billion (€5,29 billion). Their rise started when Nursultan Nazarbayev became president in 1991. He remained in business until eventually 2019, when he commenced gradually handing over energy to his close ally Kassym-Jomart Tokayev.

Inequality driver of new protests

To a lot of individuals in Kazakhstan, the prosperity amassed by the Nazarbayev relatives epitomizes the inequality that blights the nation, suggests political scientist Dosym Satpayev. This hole between prosperous and bad was one particular of the motorists of the new unrest that shook the nation, until finally a brutal government crackdown finished the protests in January. Hundreds of people died.

“Although the elite with ties to Nazarbayev grew richer, poverty grew as nicely,” Satpayev instructed DW. The electrical power sector, which offers sizeable oil reserves, has produced terrific prosperity for the ruling elites, though employees have consistently long gone on strike around minimal pay back, he explained.

Some of the protesters were being also aimed at former president Nazarbayev, who subsequently stepped down as chairman of the Stability Council of Kazakhstan. His son-in-legislation Timur Kulibayev likewise stepped down as chairman of Atameken. President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev vowed to curtail the energy of the country’s oligarchs.

Opposition phone calls for asset freeze

Kazakh opposition lawmakers, some of whom have moved to Europe fearing repercussions, have for years demanded that foreign bank accounts and belongings joined to the Nazarbayev spouse and children be frozen.

“We demand sanctions from Nazarbayev’s family members members and his closest allies for human legal rights violations and corruption, their asserts ought to be frozen,” London-primarily based dissident Akeschan Kaschegeldin instructed DW in January. In February, numerous Kazakh activists took to the streets in Berlin with related requires.

Sandschar Bokajev suggests freezing the belongings of the previous president and his family members associates would send out a sign. “It will only become obvious that the Nazarbayev period has ended when the funds his family members has moved abroad flows back again.”

Billions moved abroad

The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Challenge not long ago disclosed that charitable foundations managed by Nursultan Nazarbayev managed global assets worth some $8 billion (€7 billion). Radio Liberty uncovered that the Nazarbayev relatives owns luxury properties across Europe (excluding Germany) and the US well worth some $800 million (€705 million).

Kazakhstan's ex-President Nursultan Nazarbayev

Nursultan Nazarbayev ruled Kazakhstan from 1991 to 2019

Formally talking, there is nothing at all illegal about the Kulibayevs investing in Germany. Doing so would rely as unlawful dollars laundering only if the cash originate from felony activities in Kazakhstan.

As such, from a authorized point of view, there is tiny to criticize about the investments, claims Thomas Helm of the German-Kazakh Association. “In conditions of seizing assets, we can only look at measures in line with the rule of law we want to establish almost everything.”

Stashing away cash

What do the entrepreneurs prepare to do with their German properties? Kazakh authentic estate enterprise Mercury Homes won’t comment.

“It appears to be like like they are basically trying to stash absent income,” Bühl mayor Hubert Schnurr explained to DW. He is dissatisfied, as no money has long gone to modernizing the two Bühl motels that have remained shuttered for several years.

Although documents present the new house owners invested €20 million to invest in equally homes, they have done practically nothing to reopen to establishments. Above the past decades, the only folks that have stayed in them ended up some 100 Lithuanian development workers, who were tasked with renovating the Kazakhs-owned villas.

“I consistently get e-mails from German traders wanting to the obtain the resorts,” mayor Schnurr instructed DW. “But the Kazakhs by no means reply to my inquiries.”

This report has been translated from German