Dariga Nazarbayeva, the daughter of Kazakhstan’s former ruler, has been revealed as the secret owner of properties worth at least £140 million located on a famous stretch of London’s Baker Street.
The property addresses range from 215 Baker Street to 237 Baker Street, which includes the fictional home of Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street.
Nazarbayeva was named as the owner of the properties in a joint investigation by The Times of London newspaper and Source Material, an investigative journalism group. Their findings follow on from a 2015 report by Global Witness into the mystery over who owned the Baker Street properties.
The Times-Source Material investigation found that the properties were owned by a company called Farmont Investors Corp, based in the offshore haven of the British Virgin Islands. Based on emails seen by The Times and Source Material, Farmont was 90% owned by Dariga Nazarbayeva and 10% owned by her son Nurali Aliyev.
The Farmont shares were subsequently sold to an Abu Dhabi-based company called Landmark Network Real Estate but it appears that the Nazarbayev family retains control of this entity.
Lawyers for Nazarbayeva declined to comment on whether she and her son own the Baker Street property.
The investigation by The Times and Source Material also found that Nazarbayeva, an opera singer and politician who is estimated to have accumulated a $600 million fortune, may have misled UK courts over the source of funds used to acquire other London properties.
The UK’s National Crime Agency (NCA) brought an unexplained wealth order against Nazarbayeva and her associates in 2019 seeking to freeze her assets. Unexplained wealth orders are an anti-corruption and money laundering tool that require individuals to demonstrate that the source of their funds is legitimate.
Nazarbayeva claimed that she had bought the London properties with proceeds from the sale of a sugar company called Kant. The judge accepted this explanation and dismissed the NCA’s case.
The shares in Kant had been sold to Gas Development for $74.3 million in 2008 but The Times-Source Material investigation found that the company was controlled by individuals close to the Nazarbayev family. The investigation identified a young businessman called Galimzhan Yessenov as the primary frontman who enabled Nazarbayeva to effectively sell the Kant shares to herself and present the proceeds as legitimate.
“What the court was not told was that Nazarbayeva seems to have controlled Gas Development herself,” Source Material wrote. “That would mean Nazarbayeva was simply moving money from one of her assets to another in imitation of a genuine sale.”
Lawyers for Nazarbayeva denied allegations that she may have misled the UK courts over the unexplained wealth orders.
The Times-Source Material investigation found that at the time of the Kant deal, Gas Development was owned by Erbol Tymbaev and Kompaniya Ardelis. Both Tymbaev and Ardelis’s owner Dinara Yessenova are close associates of Galimzhan Yessenov.
Gas Development was later bought by a UAE-based company called Kingsway Limited, which at the time was part-owned by Yessenov.
The implication is that Yessenov controlled Gas Development either directly or indirectly for the benefit of the Nazarbayev family.
Yessenov has rapidly built a fortune estimated at $500 million after marrying the daughter of Akhmetzhan Yessimov, the former deputy prime minister of Kazakhstan and a close ally of President Nursultan Nazarbayev – Dariga Nazarbayeva’s father.