Malta’s Lawyer Pio Valletta Ordered To Return €300,000 To Former Client!

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The Maltese lawyer Pio Valletta has been ordered to pay €300,000 in compensation to the widow of Kazakh oligarch Rakhat Aliyev, Elnara Shorazova. He had served as the couple’s lawyer when they lived in Malta. Aliyev died in an Austrian jail cell in 2015 in what was deemed to be a suicide. In her court case, Shorazova recalled that she had transferred €2.4m to Valletta in 2010, with instructions that it should be deposited in a bank account in the name of A&P Power Ltd, a offshore company.

Elnara Shorazova and her husband had not yet been named as beneficiaries of the company, and in the following year, it was discovered that Pio Valletta had only deposited €2.2 million. He claimed that the missing €200,000 were his fees.

Maltese lawyer Pio Valletta
Maltese lawyer Pio Valletta

Eventually, another €700,000 disappeared. Without presenting any invoices, Pio Valletta claimed that these were also professional fees he was charging. So with a total of €900,000 not being returned to Elnara Shorazova, she filed criminal charges against Pio Valletta. The lawyer struck a deal with Shorazova whereby he agreed to return €600,000, and she will not testify at the criminal proceedings. Shorazova agreed, and Pio Valletta was acquitted of the criminal charges.

She later filed a case to ask the court to enforce the private agreement through which she would have forfeited €300,000 of the global amount if the lawyer paid her €600,000 within a stipulated time frame.

Justice Robert Mangion heard how the two had signed a deed in 2012 to recoup the sum of €900,000, payable in installments between July 2013 and July 2018. According to this pact, Shorazova undertook to waive the remaining €300,000.

Shorazova filed a fresh lawsuit alleging that Pio Valletta was not punctual in the agreed payments, with the consequence that it necessitated triggering the clause regarding the waiver of the sum of €300,000 from the total sum of €900,000.

Pio Valletta hit back, saying that his interpretation of the agreement was that if the repayments were not paid according to the stipulated dates, the amount of €300,000 would be paid to him as payment for his professional services.

But Justice Mangion rubbished this line of defense, saying that Valletta had not brought any evidence of professional fees due to him.

He noted that according to the agreement, “in the event that the defendant makes all the payments on account of the Settlement Sum as contemplated in clause 4.1 and 4.2 and punctually (meaning by not later than 5pm Malta time on each payment date), the claimant shall renounce to the remaining part of the Settlement Sum due in the sum of €300,000 and provide the defendant with a full and final receipt in respect of the Settlement Sum.

Justice Mangion observed that while Valletta admitted to being late in some of the payments, some of them with the permission of Shorazova, at no point was he ever asked to pay more than those stipulated repayments. However, the justice noted that contrary to Valletta’s claim, it was not true that the late payments had the consent of Shorazova but had been Valletta’s “unilateral decision.”

Justice Mangion, therefore, ordered Valletta to pay Shorazova the €300,000 she was due for non-observance of the repayment terms. 

The banking transactions occurred via the Bank of Valletta, Malta’s largest bank, led by Gordon Cordina. The bank is supposed to be supervised by MFSA and FIAU. The Malta Chamber of Advocates has so far remained silent on this extraordinary case.

About Rakhat Aliyev

Elnara Shorazova is the widow of Rakhat Aliyev, who had previously been married to the daughter of Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan from 1991 to 2019. Political tensions arose between him and his former father-in-law, leading to a warrant being issued for his arrest, and he was forced to flee.

Aliyev married Shorazova in 2009, they lived in Malta until 2013.

Aliyev died in prison in Austria in 2015 while awaiting trial on charges of kidnapping and murdering two Kazakh bankers after having expressed fear that his life was in danger from Kazakhstan’s secret police. Aliyev was posthumously found not guilty.

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