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From left to right, this photo shows the four brothers at the heart of the Abdukadyr family business: Alimujiang Hadeer, Nabi Hadeer, Maimaitili Hadeer, and the head of the family, Khabibula Abdukadyr. (Photo: OCCRP)

A Central Asian cargo tycoon at the center of controversy in Kyrgyzstan over massive sums spirited out of the country has invested tens of millions of dollars in European and U.S. real estate, a new investigation by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, OCCRP, and the Kyrgyz news site Kloop has found.

Khabibula Abdukadyr, a powerful but secretive Uyghur businessman with a Kazakh passport, and his family acquired these properties during a period in which they received tens of millions of dollars wired out of Kyrgyzstan by Aierken Saimaiti, a self-confessed money launderer killed in Istanbul last month, the December 23 report revealed.

The report is the latest in a series of investigations by the three outlets based on financial records and interviews Saimaiti provided to reporters before he was shot dead in a contract-style killing on November 10.

The previous investigations -- which revealed how Saimaiti moved money for the Abdukadyrs, illicit customs schemes, and the flow of dark cash out of Kyrgyzstan -- have triggered protests against corruption in the Central Asian country, one of the world's poorest.

Using land and company records, reporters were able in the latest investigation to identify at least 20 properties the Abdukadyr family purchased in Germany, Britain, the United States, and the United Arab Emirates over the past eight years.

These include high-rise developments in Dubai, homes in California and Virginia, and luxury residences in London, where the family bought a $6 million mansion in an exclusive, gated community.

One property, a residential development in Augsburg, Germany, has irritated locals due to repeated delays in the completion schedule.

The report found that the Abdukadyr family has paid at least $65 million for real estate in these countries, though the true figure is larger because records were not available in all countries and it does not include the cost of developing the properties.

Billion-Dollar Business

Before he was killed, Saimaiti provided reporters with what he called a sham contract in which he agreed to loan $30 million to one of the Abdukadyrs' German companies. This document was cited as an explanation to banks for some of the millions of dollars that Saimaiti wired to the Abdukadyrs' accounts in Germany.

Abdukadyr and his associates have not responded to inquiries about their business in Central Asia and beyond, nor have they commented publicly on the media investigations into their wealth and operations.

Following the first joint investigation based on Saimaiti's whistle-blowing by RFE/RL, OCCRP, and Kloop in November, the chief of Kyrgyzstan's financial police said that the businessman had transferred close to $1 billion abroad from Kyrgyz banks.

While Abdukadyr has long kept a low public profile, he rubs shoulders with political elites in Kyrgyzstan.

Reporters discovered video footage showing Abdukadyr attending Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov's November 2017 inauguration, sitting in the second row next to the president's brother, Kyrgyz Ambassador to Ukraine Jusupbek Sharipov.

Saimaiti -- a 37-year-old Chinese citizen who ran what was, on paper, a small Kyrgyz company -- also alleged before his death that a powerful former senior Kyrgyz customs official, Raimbek Matraimov, was involved in an illicit customs scheme together with Abdukadyr's cargo network.

RFE/RL, OCCRP, and Kloop previously found that Matraimov's wife was a joint investor in a Dubai development together with one of the Abdukadyrs' companies.

Matraimov denies any wrongdoing but has not publicly commented on that Dubai project. He and his relatives have filed a libel suit in Kyrgyzstan against RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service and Kloop.

Qaisha Aqan has been allowed to stay in Kazakhstan.

ZHARKENT, Kazakhstan -- A court in Kazakhstan has ruled that an ethnic-Kazakh woman from China's northwestern region of Xinjiang who is on trial for illegally crossing the border will not be deported to China.

The court in the southeastern town of Zharkent announced its decision in the high-profile case on December 23.

Judge Elmira Asubaeva handed a suspended 6-months prison sentence to Qaisha Aqan and allowed her to stay in Kazakhstan as she is married to a Kazakh national.

The ruling coincided with the request by Prosecutor Arzygul Imyarova made earlier the same day.

Aqan testified at her trial that started in November that she had to cross illegally into Kazakhstan in May 2018 because local authorities in Xinjiang threatened to place her in an internment camp for Xinjiang's indigenous ethnic groups.

"I came to Kazakhstan seeking asylum. I ask you not to send me back to China. I will be the subject of persecution there," Aqan said, adding that her 70-year-old mother, her ex-husband, and their son remain in Xinjiang.

In October, two ethnic-Kazakh men, Murager Alimuly and Qaster Musakhanuly, were arrested in Kazakhstan after they told journalists in Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty, that they had illegally crossed the Chinese-Kazakh border.

Alimuly said he was subjected to persecution in Xinjiang while Musakhanuly said he had spent several years in a so-called "reeducation camp" in the region.

In August 2018, the United Nations said an estimated 1 million Uyghurs and members of other mostly Muslim indigenous ethnic groups in Xinjiang were being held in "counterextremism centers."

The UN said millions more had been forced into reeducation camps. China denies that the facilities are internment camps.

In August 2018, a court in Almaty refused to extradite Sairagul Sauytbay, an ethnic Kazakh Chinese citizen who was wanted in China for illegal border crossing.

Sauytbay fled China in April and testified that thousands of ethnic Kazakhs, Uyghurs, and other Muslims in Xinjiang were undergoing "political indoctrination" at a network of "reeducation camps."

She added that Chinese authorities had forced her to train "political ideology" instructors for such reeducation camps. This, Sauytbay said, gave her access to secret documents about what she called a state program to "reeducate" Muslims from indigenous ethnic communities.

Although she was not extradited to China, Kazakh authorities did not allow Sauytbay to remain in Kazakhstan. She eventually was granted asylum in Sweden.

Kazakhs are the second-largest Turkic-speaking indigenous community in Xinjiang after Uyghurs. The region is also home to ethnic Kyrgyz, Tajiks, and Hui, also known as Dungans. Han, China's largest ethnic group, are the second-largest community in Xinjiang.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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