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Kazakhstan Threatens Chinese Land-Lease Speculators

ASTANA -- The Kazakh Prosecutor-General's Office has said it will prosecute speculators who try to exploit a possible land lease to China for agricultural purposes, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reports.

The prosecutor's office said in a statement today that people found speculating on the topic will be prosecuted to the full extent possible under the "Kazakh Constitution and corresponding laws."

President Nursultan Nazarbaev stated at a December session of the Foreign Investors' Council that China is interested in renting 1 million hectares of land in Kazakhstan for farming purposes.

The announcement sparked protests among opposition activists and nationalist groups in Kazakhstan.

On January 19, fugitive Kazakh businessman and politician Mukhtar Ablyazov called Nazarbaev's statement "the second stage of a long-term deal between China and Kazakhstan." He said Nazarbaev's second son-in-law, Timur Kulibaev, had received a significant bribe from China's State Petroleum Corporation officials several years ago in exchange for control of part of Kazakhstan's oil and gas sector.

Ablyazov says the possibility of Chinese farmers renting Kazakh land was discussed then as well. The Kazakh opposition is planning a protest regarding the issue on January 30.