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‘Golden visa’ firm shut by FCA helped ex-Kazakh ruler’s grandson

·3-min read
Nurali Aliyev attends the Snow Leopard Foundation Gala 2019 at Astana Arena on July 04, 2019 - Ferhat Zupcevic/ Getty Images Europe
Nurali Aliyev attends the Snow Leopard Foundation Gala 2019 at Astana Arena on July 04, 2019 - Ferhat Zupcevic/ Getty Images Europe

A “golden visa” firm that was shut down by City regulators had been working with the grandson of the autocratic former ruler of Kazakhstan, The Telegraph can reveal.

Dolfin Financial, which specialised in getting investment visas for the ultra-rich, was forced to cease activity by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) after helping clients artificially reduce their payments for investment visas from £2m to just £400,000.

The firm was accused of “dishonestly or recklessly” misleading officials about its work for an unnamed “high net-worth” client. It can now be revealed this client was Nurali Aliyev, grandson of former Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbayev, following an investigation by the Telegraph, SourceMaterial and OpenDemocracy.

Nazarbayev has been the de facto ruler of Kazakhstan for 30 years. The revelation casts fresh light on the connections between the City and figures connected to the government of Kazakhstan, which has launched a brutal domestic crackdown on protesters.

Mr Aliyev and his mother, Dariga Nazerbayev, own a string of luxury London properties, including a £33m mansion in Hampstead’s “billionaire’s row”, that were previously targeted by the National Crime Agency using an unexplained wealth order (UWO).

The UWO was later overturned following a High Court challenge in which the judge was critical of the NCA’s case. Mr Aliyev and his mother always denied any wrongdoing.

However, Dolfin incurred the wrath of the FCA for misleading officials about its relationship with Mr Aliyev after his assets were hit by the UWO, an anti-corruption tool.

The firm had made a name for itself by securing its clients access to golden visas, which allow wealthy investors to stay in the UK for more than three years if they invest £2m.

But the FCA shut Dolfin down after discovering it had helped clients effectively obtain these visas for just £400,000 using a complex funding scheme. Mr Aliyev applied for a visa, though it is not known if he did so through Dolfin.

After his assets were hit by a UWO, the firm misled regulators about its relationship with him.

The FCA said Dolfin failed to notify officials of the link when the UWO was reported in 2020, with the firm initially claiming this was because his account had seen no transactions for a year.

But investigators later discovered there was actually “a significant amount of ongoing activity between Dolfin and [Mr Aliyev], his wife and their business interests”.

The regulator said Dolfin was also “alert to the likely adverse reputational impact should its connections to [Mr Aliyev] be publicised” and had tried to cover them up.

Mr Aliyev’s identity has never been revealed by the FCA, which declined to comment on Friday.

His legal representatives at Mishcon de Reya were asked to comment but did not respond. Lawyers for Mr Joukovski and Mr Nagy, Dolfin’s founders, said they had “no material involvement in the FCA investigation ... and so are unable to comment”.

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