Former Almaty Mayor Viktor Khrapunov and his wife, Leila Khrapunova, both sentenced to lengthy prison terms in absentia in Kazakhstan on corruption charges that they have rejected as politically motivated, have been granted asylum in Switzerland.
Switzerland’s Federal Administrative Court (FAC) issued a statement on January 7 saying that the decision to provide asylum to “a Kazakh couple who are now divorced” was made because the two “who previously held high-ranking positions in the Kazakh regime, are at risk of being subject to unfair criminal proceedings if they return to the country.”
“This couple therefore has a special profile which would put them at particular risk were they to return to the country. For this reason, the FAC rules that asylum must be granted to these people. These judgments are final and may not be appealed to the Federal Supreme Court.”
Leila Khrapunova confirmed the couple in the FAC statement was her and her husband in a Facebook post on January 7 and that the decision was made on December 29.
Khrapunov was mayor of Almaty from 1997 to 2004. He was later appointed governor of the East Kazakhstan region but was dismissed from that post in 2007 and served for a short time as emergency situations minister.
Khrapunova served as the chairwoman of Kazakhstan’s national television and radio corporation in 1994-95.
Khrapunov and his family moved to Switzerland in 2007 in the wake of a scandal surrounding parcels of land that he was accused of distributed illegally during his tenure as mayor.
In October 2018, a court in Almaty tried the couple in absentia and found them guilty of organizing a criminal group, financial fraud, and bribe-taking.
Khrapunov was also found guilty of abuse of office and of the illegal privatization of property belonging to another person.
The court sentenced Khrapunov to 17 years in prison and his wife to 14 years.
Both have vehemently denied the charges, calling them politically motivated.