Kyrgyz authorities have opened an investigation into corruption at the country’s notorious customs agency, which has been accused of being a conduit for funneling hundreds of millions of dollars out of the country.
The announcement on October 17, by the State Committee for National Security, was the latest development in the political turmoil that erupted after disputed parliamentary elections earlier this month.
Protesters, angry at evidence of vote-buying and other improprieties, seized government buildings days after the October 4 elections, and election officials eventually threw out the vote.
On October 16, parliament voted to transfer presidential powers to recently elected Prime Minister Sadyr Japarov, a former nationalist lawmaker and convicted kidnapper who was freed from prison when a mob stormed a Bishkek prison.
One of his first moves was to appoint a former emergency situations minister to the powerful State Committee of National Security. The new committee chief pledged to launch an investigation of the customs agency and its former deputy chief, Raimbek Matraimov.
Matraimov is one of three brothers in what is rumored to be one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in Kyrgyzstan. He is also allegedly one of the country’s leading crime bosses.
In June, an investigation by RFE/RL, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, and the news site Kloop found that Matraimov for years had enabled and profited massively from a smuggling empire run by a secretive Uyghur family and used some of the proceeds to buy influence.