It seems they’re finally closing in on him. After more than a month of speculation as to the whereabouts of Maksim Bakiev, the son of Kyrgyz ex-President Kurmanbek Bakiev, Kyrgyz authorities on May 10 asked the Latvian government to detain him
A criminal case
was launched against Maksim shortly after anti-government demonstrations forced his father to flee the capital on April 7. Kyrgyzstan's Acting Prosecutor-General Baitemir Ibraev told RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz Service that he faced charges of premeditated murder and attempted murder.
The younger Bakiev has also been accused by Kyrgyzstan’s interim leaders of siphoning off money from fuel contracts connected to the Manas air base, a key transit hub for U.S. operations in Afghanistan. In advance of the Kyrgyz government’s Latvian request, the international police agency Interpol circulated an arrest warrant for Maksim Bakiev in connection with fraud.
The warrant, complete with obligatory blurred photo (ostensibly from Maksim’s passport), was requested by the Pervomay district court of Bishkek.
Not surprisingly, a link to the warrant was posted on the Livejournal page of the user “maksimbakiev
,” whose activities I have tracked in previous posts
But the Latvian request was met by shrugs, at least in public, by officials in Riga. Andrejs Vasks, a spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office, said he had no information on whether Maksim Bakiev was even in the country. He said his office had asked the Kyrgyz side for clarification, describing its request as "unclear and contradictory."
But there are strong signs that Maksim Bakiev is indeed somewhere inside the Baltic nation. This, it seems, is not just another rumor.
Latvian news agency LETA, citing unnamed officials, reported on April 13 that Maksim Bakiev was already in the country. His arrival was “said to have been discussed with state institutions, including the Foreign Ministry.” Guntars Grinums, head of LETA’s Foreign News Department, assured me over the phone that his news sources were “bullet-proof” and “very reliable.”
Again citing unnamed officials, LETA reported that Maksim Bakiev left Latvia on April 16.
The following week, the Latvian TV show, “Nothing Personal,” reported that he had returned via private jet, accompanied by his wife and several others, including, perhaps, the wife of ex-President Kurmanbek Bakiev. The show reported that the jet had arrived from Minsk, Kurmanbek Bakiev’s current location.
Maksim Bakiev also has a powerful friend and partner in Latvia. Businessman Valery Belokon splits the ownership of the investment company Maval Aktivi with Maksim, and Maksim is deputy chairman of Belokon’s Riga-based brewing company, Kimmels. Maksim has also reportedly helped Belokon set up a gold-mining company and a bank in Kyrgyzstan.
Today, Latvian police announced today that they had begun searching for the ousted president’s son.
What will happen if and when they find him is another question.
Latvian newspaper "Dienas Bizness" has an article today that examines possible scenarios, which include a Bakiev asylum plea, string-pulling by the influential Belokon, and even a decision not to extradite Bakiev in the end.
-- Richard Solash