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Former Kyrgyz Customs Officer Who Criticized Powerful Ex-Boss Jailed

Emilbek Kimsanov has been transferred to pretrial detention.
Emilbek Kimsanov has been transferred to pretrial detention.

BISHKEK -- A former Kyrgyz customs officer from the southern city of Osh who openly criticized a powerful former deputy chief of the Central Asian nation's customs service who is at the center of a corruption scandal, has been transferred from house arrest to a detention center in Bishkek.

The Birinchi Mai District Court in the Kyrgyz capital said to RFE/RL on April 8 that Emilbek Kimsanov had been transferred to pretrial detention on March 31 and would be held there at least until April 16.

Kimsanov was taken into custody in February in the Russian city of St. Petersburg at the request of the Kyrgyz authorities. He was extradited subsequently to Kyrgyzstan, where he was placed under house arrest over his alleged involvement in the 2018 beating of a son of the former Interior Minister Moldomusa Kongantiev.

Kimsanov's wife Maria Zavorotnyaya in an April 8 video statement addressed to President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, said that the case against her husband was organized by "an influential man of Kyrgyzstan" due to a standoff with her spouse. Zavorotnyaya did not mention the "influential man's" name.

Earlier in the year, Kimsanov's brother, Emirbek Kimsanov, asked Jeenbekov to protect his brother from Raimbek Matraimov and his family, who, he said, had been persecuting Emilbek Kimsanov for his refusal to participate in Matraimov's "corruptive schemes."

Raimbek Matraimov has been at the center of a high-profile corruption scandal exposed by a joint investigation by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, known locally as Radio Azattyk, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP,) and the Kyrgyz news site Kloop.

The investigation chronicled how a 37-year-old Uyghur businessman from China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, self-confessed money launderer Aierken Saimaiti, moved hundreds of millions of dollars out of Kyrgyzstan, much of it via a business network led by Khabibula Abdukadyr, a secretive Chinese-born Uyghur with a Kazakh passport.

Saimaiti was shot dead in Istanbul on November 10, but before his death he gave reporters documents that revealed the massive and systemic plunder of public funds from Kyrgyzstan.

The investigation also implicated Matraimov, who has denied the allegations.