Talgat Ardan, the former director of a city-run Kazakh transit company, is wanted by the international police agency Interpol on suspicion of embezzlement, the Organized Crime and Corruption Project (OCCRP) reported on August 5.
For three years until 2017, Ardan headed the municipal-owned Astana LRT transit company, which is overseeing the construction of Kazakhstan’s first elevated light rail system.
It is supposed to address the capital city’s growing traffic problems, contribute to reducing carbon emissions, and improve passenger safety.
A year after Ardan's dismissal, prosecutors opened a criminal case against company managers who "were suspected of abusing their power," OCCRP reported.
Earlier this year, Kazakhstan’s Anti-Corruption Agency opened a criminal case against Ardan and issued a warrant for his arrest.
Interpol added his name to its wanted list last week.
LRT’s light rail transit project has lagged, however, and the Nur-Sultan local government cut $350 million from the project’s budget, the Astana Times reported on August 5.
Meanwhile, a few months ago the city administration temporarily suspended the project, but wants to restart it.
Former President Nursultan Nazarbaev and incumbent Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev have criticized the project by pointing to the initial $1.8 billion project cost and associated investment risks.
In 2015, the Kazakh government borrowed $1.5 billion for the project from the Chinese National Bank of Development. About $250 million of that ended up frozen at Bank Astana after the bank's managers were found guilty of embezzlement.
The bank was liquidated in 2018.
To save money, Nur-Sultan Mayor Altai Kulginov said the number of planned train stops will be reduced from 18 to 11 and the number of rolling stock units will decrease from 19 to 12. Intervals between stops will also change from three to 10 minutes.
To finish financing the project, the Finance Ministry has proposed issuing bonds to pay off the Chinese debt and complete the construction of the rail system.
Kulginov said the project should be commissioned next year.