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Kazakh Ex-Health Minister Arrested On Embezzlement Charges

Former Kazakh Health Minister Elzhan Birtanov was fired from the job in June.

NUR-SULTAN – Kazakhstan's former Health Minister Elzhan Birtanov, who was removed from the post in June amid a surge in coronavirus cases and renewed lockdowns, has been arrested on embezzlement charges.

The Central Asian nation's Finance Ministry said on November 3 that a court ordered Birtanov remanded in custody as the investigation into the case continues.

Local media reported on October 31 that Birtanov was detained on suspicion of embezzling 526 million tenges ($1.2 million) that had been allocated by the government for the digitization of the Health Ministry.

President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev sacked Birtanov on June 25 and criticized him for what he called his failure to tackle the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

Toqaev also ordered the establishment of a special commission to investigate his activities as health minister, a post Birtanov had been holding since 2017.

Deputy Health Minister Olzhas Abishev has since been arrested on suspicion of embezzlement.

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