Meanwhile, in a holding cell somewhere, sat Yolly Gurbanmuradov. Gurbanmuradov is the former chairman of Turkmenistan's foreign bank and more recently the deputy prime minister in charge of Turkmenistan's multibillion-dollar oil and gas industries.
He faces grave charges.
On 31 May, Turkmen Prosecutor-General Gurbanbibi Atajanova held a press conference to announce the preliminary case against Gurbanmuradov.
"Gurbanmuradov, while working at a responsible post, misused his authority through his illegal dealings with corrupt people, with foreign companies, and with the Erko [What] factory," Atajanova said. "He had criminal ties with these groups and was paid large bribes and used state money for his own purposes. So, we have opened a major criminal case against him."
Specific charges came some 10 days later. National Security Minister Geldymukhammed Ashirmukhammedov told Niyazov and the cabinet of ministers more about Gurbanmuradov's alleged activities.
"Yolly Gurbanmuradov, at the end of October [of 2004], received Internet information from representatives of foreign intelligence services about selling Turkmen oil at reduced prices," Ashirmukhammedov said. "After that, he established unofficial contacts with representatives of foreign intelligence services and offered his services to them. Great leader, I will not name the country here because the investigation is still under way. Yolly Gurbanmuradov sought to destroy the tranquil life in Turkmenistan and create social discord. In December 2004, he planned to create an artificial shortage of gasoline throughout the entire country. We succeeded in preventing this."
Niyazov then questioned Ashirmukhammedov about money that Gurbanmuradov allegedly stole:
Niyazov: "How much of the state's money did you get back, in dollars?"
Ashirmukhammedov: "About $188 million was returned."
Niyazov: "This is the main thing or else this would ruin us. For what was returned, I thank you. If this money had vanished, I would be upset."
There still is no word about whom Gurbanmuradov was allegedly spying for.
At the same cabinet session, Niyazov ordered that three months' salary be withheld from state minister Ilyas Charyyev, one of the officials tasked with providing oil and gas to the country. Niyazov also held Charyyev responsible for the shortage of gasoline in Turkmenistan at the end of 2004.
Today, Charyyev was accused of embezzling $99 million.
Khudaiberdy Orazov was Turkmenistan's former central-bank chief and is now an opposition leader in exile. He told RFE/RL's Turkmen Service that he believes Gurbanmuradov's legal problems are part of Niyazov's attempt to cover up his own shady past.
"Niyazov has his own method of stealing money," Orazov said. "In the first years after independence, many officials took part in [stealing]. Everyone gave Niyazov a cut [of their stolen wealth]. By 1995 or 1996, [Niyazov] had already dismissed many officials, but some remained. [Those that remained] were never considered close to [Niyazov]. Now in Turkmenistan, everyone wants out of this deal, and Niyazov doesn't want anyone to know about this arrangement."
That Gurbanmuradov will eventually be found guilty of embezzlement and espionage appears unavoidable. Niyazov has publicly called Gurbanmuradov a liar. In Turkmenistan, that is the equivalent of being found guilty.
(Rozinar Khoudaiberdiyev and Mohammed Tahir of RFE/RL's Turkmen Service contributed to this report.)
Turkmenistan: Trouble At The Top?