Kyrgyz ex-PM arrested for mineral corruption

kyrgyzstan

The State Committee for National Security of Kyrgyzstan reported Jan. 27 the detention of Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev, the former prime minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, on charges of corruption and illegal enrichment. The arrest took place under the pre-trial framework of the Kyrgyz Criminal Procedure Code. Following Article 98 of the Code, Abylgaziev is being held on suspicion in a temporary detention facility while the investigation continues. The State Committee has alleged that during his tenure as prime minister, Abylgaziev violated the law by signing a government decree providing Kumtor Gold Company CJSC additional territories for geological exploration and gold mining. Consequently, the total area of the mine doubled, contravening a previous decree banning the expansion of the mine so as to protect the fragile ecosystem of the Issyk-Kul Lake region.

Issyk-Kul, the seventh deepest lake in the world, is the first nature reserve in Kyrgyzstan, and is recognized as a biosphere reserve and critical wetland under UNESCO’s Ramsar Convention of 1971. As per the State Committee:

The development of these territories will lead to severe environmental consequences for the flora and fauna of the Issyk-Kul biosphere zone, and may also disrupt the country’s hydropower system.

Abylgaziev has also been accused of illegally increasing his assets, laundering this income through purchase of property in the Bishkek, Chui and Issyk-Kul districts, registering them under the name of straw persons.

Abylgaziev became prime minister in April 2018 and resigned on June 15, 2020, due to a criminal probe into corruption in the assignment of national radio frequencies. The country ranks 124 out of 180 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index for 2020.

From Jurist, Jan. 30. Used with permission.

Note: The Kumtor mine has been the target of repeated local protest campaigns over environmental degradation.

Map: Perry-Casta├▒eda Library