BISHKEK -- A lawyer for the wealthy family of former deputy chief of Kyrgyzstan's Customs Service, Raimbek Matraimov, who has been implicated in a high-profile case involving the illegal funneling of hundreds of millions of dollars abroad, has been made a judge.
Acting Kyrgyz President Talant Mamytov said on January 6 that lawyer Leila Baidaeva was appointed to the post at Bishkek's Sverdlov district court.
Baidaeva was one of the lawyers for Matraimov's extended family and their Ismail Matraimov Public Foundation. She assisted them in filing a libel lawsuit in late 2019 against RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, locally known as Azattyk, its correspondent Ali Toktakunov, and the news site Kloop, following an alleged corruption scandal exposed by the media outlets.
The investigative report showed that a 37-year-old Uyghur businessman from China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, Aierken Saimaiti, secretly provided reporters with documents demonstrating how hundreds of millions of dollars were moved out of Kyrgyzstan, much of it via a business network led by Khabibula Abdukadyr, a secretive Chinese-born Uyghur with a Kazakh passport.
Saimaiti, who was shot dead in Istanbul on November 10, 2020, alleged that Matraimov, while serving as Kyrgyz customs' deputy chief, was instrumental in providing cover for the Abdukadyr network’s cargo empire in the region.
After the joint investigative report was made public in November 2019, several protests were held in Bishkek, where thousands demanded the authorities thoroughly investigate the allegations.
Matraimov and his brother, Iskender Matraimov, have denied all accusations of wrongdoing by the former customs official.
On October 20, 2020, following anti-government protests over disputed parliamentary elections that ousted the cabinet and forced President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to resign, Matraimov was detained and placed under house arrest.
The State Committee for National Security (UKMK) said at the time that Matraimov had agreed to pay about 2 billion soms ($24.7 million) in damages to the state, and that 80 million soms ($1 million) had already been transferred to its account.
On December 9, 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions against Matraimov for his alleged role in the vast corruption and money-laundering scheme.