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Kazakhstan: Criminal Scandal Widens Around Ex-Ambassador Aliev

  • Bruce Pannier --> Kazakhstan might again seek Rakhat Aliev's extradition (file photo) (ITAR-TASS) August 28, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Kazakh authorities are piling up the evidence in the case against Rakhat Aliev, a former ambassador to Austria and an influential businessman.

Arrest warrants are being issued for others in the inner circle of this once-powerful man, who was recently divorced by the Kazakh president's oldest daughter, Darigha Nazarbaeva.

Aliev is already wanted in Kazakhstan on charges of abducting and assaulting two Nurbank executives, both of whom are still missing. A Vienna court has already turned down one extradition request for Aliev, saying he would not receive a fair trial in Kazakhstan.

Aliev is also sought on charges of financial wrongdoing.

"The authorities want to scare Rakhat Aliev. They also barred his father from going abroad... They are trying their best to stop Rakhat Aliev from testifying in the 'Kazakhgate' trial."

Early this month, the body of a television reporter who'd been missing for three years was found in an unmarked grave in southern Kazakhstan. Aliev knew the woman, Anastasiya Novikova, and now he and some of his associates have been implicated in her death.

Connected Crimes

At a news conference on August 27, Interior Ministry spokesman Bagdat Kozhakhmetov drew a connection between the kidnapping of the Nurbank bankers and the murder of the television reporter.

"So far the investigators have managed to discover that one of the major suspects who might have been involved in the bankers' kidnapping, Vadim Koshliyak, was in Beirut, where he met with Anastasiya Novikova. It is currently believed that Vadim Koshliyak might have been involved in the murder of Anastasiya Novikova and is considered a major suspect in that case," Kozhakhmetov said.

Koshliyak is reportedly in Austria. But Kozhakhmetov said there are other suspects with ties to Aliev.

"The Interior Ministry has started searching for Alnur Musaev, who also, as it turns out, might be involved in the abduction of Nurbank officials Zholdas Timraliev and Aibar Khasenov. The investigators' group has found that this person could have been involved as well," he said.

Alnur Musaev headed Kazakhstan's National Security Committee (KNB) from 1997 to 2001 -- and, for a brief period during 2001, Rakhat Aliev was his first deputy. Musaev's current whereabouts are unknown.

Kozhakhmetov further announced that illegal weapons were found during a search at the home of Rakhat Aliev's father, Mukhtar. Mukhtar Aliev attempted to fly to London on August 21 but was prevented from leaving by officials at Almaty Airport.

Mukhtar Aliev on August 26 published an open letter to President Nursultan Nazarbaev. In it, the elder Aliev begged the president to forgive him and his son for any wrongdoing they may have done. Mukhtar Aliev wrote that "events related to opening a criminal case" against his son have "impacted" the older man's health and his family.

Key Witnesses

Zauresh Battalova, a former opposition member of parliament, told RFE/RL's Kazakh Service that former National Security Committee head Musaev and Mukhtar Aliev are at least partly responsible for creating their current problems.

She also thinks officials are eager to prevent the influential Rakhat Aliev from testifying in an ongoing scandal over kickbacks from Western oil interests, known as "Kazakhgate."

"Alnur Musaev and Mukhtar Aliev have held several gatherings and press conferences recently [criticizing the government] -- that is one thing. Second, I think that with such a step, the authorities want to scare Rakhat Aliev," Battalova said. "They also barred his father from going abroad. By doing that, they are trying their best to stop Rakhat Aliev from testifying in the 'Kazakhgate' trial and to prevent the appearance of Alnur Musaev at that trial."

The "Kazakhgate" scandal involves allegedly illegal payments by Western oil companies to Kazakh officials in exchange for lucrative contracts in Kazakhstan's huge oil industry. President Nazarbaev's name has been mentioned among the officials who might have been involved, and his former son-in-law might be able to shed light on the allegations.

Rakhat Aliev remains in Austria, insisting that he has done nothing wrong and is a victim of political persecution. He was sent to Austria in February, after the scandal broke over the abduction of the Nurbank executives. By May, Aliev had been dismissed. Shortly afterward, the president's daughter Darigha Nazarbaeva divorced him. He remains free in Austria on bail of 1 million euros.

Kazakh authorities have publicly protested the Austrian court decision not to extradite Aliev. The new charges against Aliev's associates appear to signal official Kazakh intent to make another extradition request for Aliev and his friends in Austria.

(RFE/RL Kazakh Service director Merhat Sharipzhan contributed to this report.)

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