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Former Kyrgyz Security Council Chief Dismisses New Government's Anti-Corruption Efforts As A 'Theatrical Show'

Keneshbek Duishobaev (file photo)
Keneshbek Duishobaev (file photo)

BISHKEK -- The former chief of Kyrgyzstan's Security Council, Keneshbek Duishobaev, has resigned in protest of anti-corruption efforts by the Central Asian nation's new government that he called little more than "a theatrical show."

Talking to reporters in Bishkek on October 27 just hours after his removal from the post was announced, Duishobaev said that last week's detainment and house arrest of the former deputy chief of the Customs Service, Raimbek Matraimov, had raised more questions than it answered.

“The State Committee for National Security (UKMK) declared to the whole world that Raimbek Matraimov caused damage to the state. Therefore, there are questions: When and by whom criminal cases were initiated against him; when criminal activity was established; by whom was the economic harm revealed? Seeing all this, I decided to resign,” Duishobaev said.

Immediately after Duishobaev's press conference, the UKMK rejected his statement.

"The UKMK is actively implementing measures against corruption and criminal groups. All the efforts are based on the law. Proper activities are under way to eliminate corruption schemes, mend damages caused by such schemes, and eradicate criminal activities," the UKMK statement said.

Duishobaev's resignation comes as the Central Asian nation, which borders China and is closely allied with Russia, reels from protests earlier this month against the results of October 4 parliamentary elections that awarded most seats to two establishment parties amid allegations of vote-buying and other improprieties.

In the wake of the results, protesters seized government buildings and forced the cabinet and President Sooronbai Jeenbekov to resign and the vote to be annulled. They also released nationalist politician Sadyr Japarov from prison, allowing him first to be elected prime minister and then to take over as acting president.

Japarov, who had been convicted of kidnapping a political rival, has since vowed to root out corruption, which is seen as rampant in the country.

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Last year, a joint investigation by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, and the Kyrgyz news site Kloop implicated Matraimov in a corruption scheme involving the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country by Chinese-born Uyghur businessman Aierken Saimaiti, who was assassinated in Istanbul in November 2019.

A day after Matraimov was placed under house arrest on October 20, Japarov announced an "economic amnesty" for former officials who illegally enriched themselves through corruption.

Many people in Kyrgyzstan, however, saw this as a thinly veiled way to exonerate Matraimov, a powerful tycoon and an ally of former President Jeenbekov, who resigned in the wake of protests in mid-October.

"All the activities announced as a fight against criminal groups and corruption have turned into a theatrical show, including Matraimov's case," Duishobaev added.

Matraimov is one of three brothers from what is rumored to be one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Kyrgyzstan. He was a key financial backer for political parties and presidents, including Jeenbekov.

Duishobaev also said at his press conference that he expects that the notorious organized crime figure Kamchy Kolbaev, who was detained in Bishkek last week, will be released soon.

Kolbaev, who was added by Washington to a list of major global drug-trafficking suspects in 2011, is known as a "thief-in-law" -- a title traditionally given to kingpins among criminal groups in former Soviet republics.

The Kyrgyz State Committee for National Security (UKMK) said last week that he had been detained on suspicion of organizing a criminal group and participating in the activities of an organized criminal group.

The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek said it welcomed Kolbaev's detention and added that it hoped the Kyrgyz authorities would "prosecute and continue to detain this dangerous criminal leader in the interest of public safety."