May 5, 2022 admin 1 Comments

Net Worth: $1bn

Nationality: Kazakh

Date of Birth: 14 July 1979

With an estimated net worth of $1 billion, Kenes Rakishev has sought to position himself as Kazakhstan’s premier high-tech venture capitalist, with an array of diversified businesses in his homeland and overseas. However, this carefully crafted image cannot hide the political connections in Kazakhstan that have enabled Rakishev to build a fortune in a more traditional oligarchic way.

Rakishev’s publicity machine has also been unable to cover up the businessman’s numerous failures, which have left investors nursing huge losses. And Kenes Rakishev is facing growing scrutiny over the questionable associates he has consorted with throughout his career, including controversial politicians, convicted felons and businessmen facing criminal charges.

Oxford University-educated Rakishev has won influence in Kazakhstan thanks to political connections forged via his wife, who is the daughter of Imangali Tasmagambetov – a former mayor of Astana and a close ally of former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Since 2006, Rakishev has served as chairman of the board of Fincraft Group LLP (formerly SAT & Company), a diversified holding company combining more than 30 businesses across different industrial sectors such as mining, construction and metallurgy.

In 2014, Rakishev took control of BTA Bank and its accompanying distressed asset portfolio. In his role as majority shareholder and chairman of the board of directors at BTA, Rakishev has spearheaded the bank’s efforts to recover more than $6 billion embezzled by former chairman Mukhtar Ablyazov, a Kazakh fugitive. By 2018, BTA had recovered only $1 billion and concerns have been expressed about the costs of the BTA litigation, with suggestions that too much had been blown on inflated legal fees to justify the mediocre return.

In 2017, Rakishev became majority shareholder of Kazkommertsbank (KKB), formerly Kazakhstan’s largest private bank. It was in partnership with KKB that Rakishev had bought BTA Bank three years earlier and it had absorbed BTA’s distressed asset portfolio. This caused KKB to suffer severe liquidity problems and rating agency Fitch downgraded KKB to “f” from “ccc”, reflecting its view that “the bank has failed and requires external support to address a material capital shortfall”. The distressed assets were moved into the state’s Problem Loan Fund. In July 2018, KKB merged with rival private bank Halyk for a fee of $1.

Outside Kazakhstan, Rakishev has overseen a string of struggling or failed companies. One such business, Net Element, a “blank check” fintech offering, has lost more than 99% of its value since Rakishev rang the NASDAQ bell to celebrate its IPO in 2012. Rakishev acquired a 27.8% stake in Net Element in February 2012 and became its chairman. In 2013, the company acquired Unified Payments, a card-processing firm boasting 23,646% three-year revenue growth and hailed as America’s “fastest growing company”.

However, Net Element quickly shed tens of millions of dollars in value and a series of other business deals also failed, including Music1, an unsuccessful Russian rival to Spotify, and a blockchain firm that did not get off the ground. In August 2021, Net Element merged with Mullen Automotive, an American electric car company.

Rakishev has also expanded his business portfolio into Israel where in 2013 he founded Singulariteam Limited, a private venture capital fund focused on artificial intelligence technologies, augmented virtual reality, robotics and nanotechnology.

One company that received an investment from Singulariteam was Sirin Labs, a UK-based smartphone manufacturer that counts Rakishev as its Founder and Chairman. Sirin Labs is currently the subject of a $16.1 million lawsuit filed in May 2021 by Singulariteam employees who allege that the company’s Initial Coin Offering (ICO) had the sole purpose of defrauding investors.

Another company that received Singulariteam backing was Mobli, a social mobile photo and video-sharing platform founded by Moshe Hogeg and his brother Oded in 2010. In July 2012, Mobli announced that tennis player Serena Williams had invested an undisclosed amount in Mobli. Other angel investors included Lance Armstrong and actor Tobey Maguire. Rakishev invested $20 million, earning him a spot on Mobli’s board. In six years, the company raised $86 million in venture funds. However, in June 2016 Mobli laid off about a third of its employees and later filed for bankruptcy.

In addition to his business interests, Kenes Rakishev is known for his friendships with a number of scandal-afflicted individuals.

For example, Rakishev struck up a close relationship with Prince Andrew and reportedly brokered the sale of the prince’s Sunninghill estate, a wedding gift from the Queen, to Timur Kulibayev, son-in-law to Kazakhstan’s ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

The sale raised eyebrows because the 12-bedroom property, unfavourably likened to an out-of-town superstore, had languished on the market for five years before being bought in 2007 for £15 million – £3 million above the asking price, leading to allegations of improper payments.

Separately, a leaked emailed revealed that Prince Andrew had sought to leverage his relationship with Rakishev to discreetly help a Greek sewerage company, EYDAP, and a Swiss finance company, Aras Capital, to bid for infrastructure contracts in Kazakhstan worth an estimated 500 million euros.

Rakishev has also formed a close association with Hunter Biden, son of the US President Joe Biden. In 2020, a photograph emerged showing Hunter Biden, Joe Biden, Rakishev and former Kazakh prime minister Karim Massimov, who was arrested and charged with treason after an attempted coup in January.

Emails revealed that Hunter Biden had extensive meetings with Rakishev in which he attempted to persuade the Kazakh businessman to buy into a Nevadan mining company. Hunter Biden also convinced Rakishev to invest $1 million with Alexandra Forbes Kerry, the film-maker and daughter of former secretary of state John Kerry.

Rakishev, whose messages were written in broken English, appeared to strike up a friendship with Hunter Biden, describing him as “my brother!” and “my brother from another mother!” They exchanged gossip about their family holidays and dined together at luxury restaurants in New York.

In 2020, a US Senate Committee report revealed that Novatus Holding, Rakishev’s company, made a payment of $142,300 “for a car” to Rosemont Seneca Bohai, a company run by Devon Archer, a close friend and associate of Hunter Biden. The transfer drew suspicion from the Senate Committee because Rosemont Seneca Bohai “does not deal in vehicles”.

Rakishev is also friends with Ramzan Kadyrov, the controversial leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic. Kadyrov has been accused of an array of human rights abuses including torture, forced disappearances and extra-judicial killings. Human Rights Watch said his behaviour constitutes crimes against humanity. He has also reportedly led anti-gay purges in Chechnya.

Rakishev has made numerous visits to Kadyrov in Chechnya and Kadyrov even described him as “dear brother”. The pair have been photographed together on a number of occasions. According to reports, Rakishev allegedly funded the construction of Kadyrov’s luxury palace in Chechen capital Grozny.

Kadyrov is currently part of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Rakishev’s close association with the Chechen leader could expose Rakishev to sanctions by the US Government, which has warned it will step up efforts to punish oligarchs who support the Russian regime.

Rakishev’s business dealings with Israeli entrepreneur Moshe Hogeg have also raised eyebrows. Hogeg is currently facing a string of criminal charges for misleading investors, fraud and sex trafficking.

In November, Hogeg was arrested as part of an Israeli police operation dubbed “The Big Game”. He is alleged to have orchestrated a massive fraud scheme related to cryptocurrencies and “pocketed millions of shekels, while making false presentations to potential investors to invest in seemingly profitable ventures”, according to Israeli police. According to court documents, he is suspected of 21 offences including money laundering, theft, fraud and sex trafficking. Separately, a well-known Israeli model accused Hogeg of sexually assaulting her when she was 17. According to Israeli TV, Hogeg entered her hotel room and forced himself on her.

Rakishev has also worked closely with a Swiss lawyer named Thomas Haeusler who established Rakishev’s Swiss structure as well as acting as director in several of his companies. But Haeusler was banned from being a company director in Singapore for five years in 2017 after a string of companies he managed were struck off.  He is also behind a Singaporean oil company called Procerium Energy which reportedly defied US sanctions by buying oil from PDVSA, a Venezuelan state-owned oil and gas company.

Kenes Rakishev was last modified: May 5th, 2022 by admin

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