Tag Archives: corruption

Kazakh police arrest medical staff for selling fake vaccination certificates

JULY 15 2021 (The Bulletin) — Police in Kazakhstan arrested four medical staff in the city of Pavlodar for selling fake coronavirus vaccination certificates, media reported (July 15). The arrests follow several at other hospitals in Kazakhstan. The Kazakh government has said that it wants to make vaccination compulsory for people to work, leading to a demand for fake vaccination certificates.

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— This story was published in issue 493 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on July 22 2021

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Swede charged with paying massive bribe to Azerbaijani railway exec

JUNE 13 2021 (The Bulletin) — Prosecutors in Sweden charged Thomas Bimer, a former executive at engineering firm Bombardier, of corruption linked to a $350m signalling project that the company won in Azerbaijan in 2013. According to press reports, Mr Bimer was part of a scheme to pay a $100m bribe to a mid-ranking official at Azerbaijani Railways for the contract. Mr Bimer and Bombardier deny any wrongdoing.

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— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

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German MP resigns over corruption allegations linked to Azerbaijan

MARCH 11 (The Bulletin) — Mark Hauptmann, a German MP from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU party, resigned his position after being accused of receiving cash from Azerbaijan to promote its interests. Spiegel magazine said that Mr Hauptmann had used his position as the editor of a regional newspaper to promote Azerbaijan’s agenda in 2015 and 2018. He has denied the accusations. In January, a court in Italy sentenced former MEP Luca Volonte to four years in prison for taking bribes from Azerbaijan.

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— This story was published in issue 475 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on March 15 2021

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Uzbekistan rail company denies that Tashkent retreat was built for president

MARCH 10 (The Bulletin) — Uzbekistan’s state railway company released a video that claimed that a luxury retreat built in hills outside Tashkent is for its employees and not for Uzbek Pres. Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The video is a response to a report released by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty which said that the complex had been built as a palace for Mr Mirziyoyev and that Uzbek Railways have been used to shield its real use. 

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— This story was published in issue 475 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on March 15 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Police in Bishkek arrest former Beeline country chief

FEB. 4 2021 (The Bulletin) — Police in Kyrgyzstan arrested Yevgeny Krazhan, the former head of Sky Mobile telecoms, which trades under the Beeline brand, for alleged corruption. The Beeline brand belongs to New York-listed Veon. Corruption is rife in Kyrgyzstan and media reported that the arrest of Mr Krazhan, a Ukrainian, is linked to an investigation into corruption by officials in the state communications agency.

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— This story was first published in issue 471 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Swedish court upholds acquittal of former TeliaSonera execs for corruption

FEB. 4 2021 (The Bulletin) — A court in Stockholm upheld the acquittal of three former executives of telecoms company TeliaSonera, now called Telia, who had been charged with paying bribes to Gulnara Karimova, the daughter of former Uzbek leader Islam Karimov. The three men, including former TeliaSonera CEO Lars Nyberg, went on trial in 2018 and were acquitted in 2019 because it could not be proved that Ms Karimova held any official position in the Uzbek telecoms sector.  Ms Karimova has been under house arrest or in prison in Tashkent since 2014. In 2017, Telia paid more than $1b in fines for the bribes, the largest ever corporate corruption fine.

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— This story was first published in issue 471 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

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Trial begins of manslaughter over dam collapse

DEC. 25 2020 (The Bulletin) — Uzbekistan’s Supreme Court began the trial for manslaughter through negligence of eight men who built and designed a dam in the north of the country that burst in 2020, flooding thousands of acres of farmland, forcing 70,000 people to flee their homes and killing six people. The case is being closely watched in Uzbekistan. Officials said that they suspected that corruption was partly to blame for the failure of the dam, which was finished in 2017.

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— This story was first published in issue 467 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

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Kyrgyzstan’s MPs vote in amnesty for corrupt wealth

BISHKEK/DEC. 23 2020 (The Bulletin) —  Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted into law an amnesty for people who enriched themselves through corruption and theft in exchange for giving some of their assets to the state.

Supporters of the government’s amnesty said that it will boost resources and also cut the size of the shadow economy. Its detractors, though, said that the main aim was to provide cover for Raimbek Matraimov, the former deputy head of Kyrgyzstan’s customs service, who is accused of corruption and stealing hundreds of millions of dollars.

Mr Matraimov, whose assets have been frozen in the United States, has, it has been reported, already agreed to pay back 2b som ($25m).

Analysts have said that the Kyrgyz elite may be so eager to give protection to Mr Matraimov because he could easily implicate others.

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— This story was first published in issue 467 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Kyrgyz film showing corruption aired on Youtube

JULY 28 (The Bulletin) — The producers of a film showing corruption by Kyrgyz officials said that the authorities tried to block the film’s release. Meken shows a stand-off between a Chinese mining company and Kyrgyz villagers. It also shows bribes being paid by Chinese workers to Kyrgyz government officials for breaking various environmental rules. Although the film is fiction, it is rooted in real life events. The director of Meken, Medetbek Jailov, said that the film was supposed to be aired earlier in the year but was blocked because the security service had demanded that corruption scenes were removed. Instead, the producers will release the film, for free, on Youtube.

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— This story was published in issue 455 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on July 31 2020.

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020

The wisdom in punishing former presidents for corruption

JUNE 23 (The Bulletin) — Former presidents in Central Asia and the South Caucasus have more in common with London buses than you would expect.

An old adage says that you wait for ages for a London bus and then two come along at once. To some extent, the same could be said of former presidents in Central Asia and the South Caucasus.

In Bishkek, a judge marked a first by imprisoning former president Almazbek Atambayev for 11 years for corruption. He is the first former president in the region to be imprisoned but is likely to be followed quickly by two more. In Armenia, former presidents Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan are in and out of court and both appear destined for a spell in prison.

There have, of course, been other attempts to imprison former presidents in Central Asia, but they have failed. Just. Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a former president in Kyrgyzstan, was found guilty of corruption after a revolution in 2010 but had already fled to Belarus and Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s former president, has also been found guilty of corruption but is living and working in Ukraine.

The point is that unless they are very careful, incoming governments tempted to set prosecutors onto the trail of former presidents and their various associates, look like they are more interested in settling scores than governing. 

Rightly, US and EU diplomats have lobbied for various governments not to go down this route. It undermines their credibility and damages both relations with foreign investors, who don’t like the aggressive headlines, and also ordinary people’s trust in politics.

Perhaps it would have been better in Kyrgyzstan and Armenia and Georgia to spend less energy on settling old scores and more on improving people’s lives? The drivers can be different — in Kyrgyzstan, Pres. Sooronbai Jeenbekov had to stop Atambayev dominating politics; in Armenia, PM Pashinyan felt that he needed to perpetuate the popular revolution of 2018 and punish former governments for shooting dead anti-government protests in 2008; in Georgia, the incoming Georgian Dream coalition government needed to prove that Saakashvili and his government were as corrupt and evil as they had claimed in an acrimonious pair of elections — but the results are the same.

And it perpetuates as the next incoming government will be tempted to right the wrongs that they have also been nursing. 

When this cycle is broken, politics in the region will have truly grown up. 

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— This story was first published in issue 451 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin on June 23 2020

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020