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Prosecutor Seeks 12 Years For Former Kazakh Minister

Former Kazakh Economy Minister Quandyq Bishimbaev appears in court on January 8.
Former Kazakh Economy Minister Quandyq Bishimbaev appears in court on January 8.

ASTANA -- The prosecutor in the high-profile trial of former Kazakh Economy Minister Quandyq Bishimbaev has asked a court in Astana to sentence him to 12 years in prison on charges of bribery and embezzlement.

The prosecutor also asked the court on February 19 to confiscate Bishimbaev's property and bar him for life from serving in state posts.

Bishimbaev, 37, was arrested by Kazakhstan's Anticorruption Service in January 2017, weeks after President Nursultan Nazarbaev fired him.

A product of an elite educational program supported by Nazarbaev, Bishimbaev quickly rose through the political ranks -- serving as deputy industry and trade minister and deputy chairman of Kazakhstan's sovereign wealth fund before becoming economy minister in May 2016.

Bishimbaev is accused of accepting bribes when he was head of Bayterek, a state-controlled holding company.

He pleaded not guilty at a preliminary hearing in October, while several of his co-defendants plead guilty and concluded deals with prosecutors.

Authorities say Bishimbaev exercised his right to remain silent and did not speak to investigators after he and 22 co-defendants were arrested.

In his first remarks to the court since his trial began in November, Bishimbaev apologized to Nazarbaev and the country on January 8, but maintained he had done nothing illegal.

Several former officials have faced prosecution on suspicion of graft in the tightly controlled Central Asian country in recent years, with some sentenced to long prison terms.

During their trials, many of them have apologized to Nazarbaev, who holds near-absolute power and has been president since before Kazakhstan gained independence in the 1991 Soviet collapse.

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