France agrees to extradite Kazakh opposition figure to Russia: Lawyer

PARIS (AFP) - The French government has given the green light for the extradition of Kazakh tycoon and opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov to Russia, where he is accused of embezzling billions of dollars, his lawyer told AFP on Monday (Oct 12).

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls signed the extradition decree on Sept 17 and Ablyazov was informed last week at the French prison where he is being held, lawyer Peter Sahlas said, adding that his client would challenge the decision.

Ablyazov is accused by Kazakhstan, Russia and Ukraine of embezzling billions of dollars during his time as chairman of BTA Bank.

A former trade minister, he fled Kazakhstan after the bank was taken over by the government in 2009, and officials later found huge gaps in its accounts.

He was arrested on the French Rivieria in July 2013.

The case has gone back and forth in France - with the extradition approved in January 2014, overturned by an appeals court and then reconfirmed in October - but the government still had to give its final approval.