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Kyrgyz Consul-General In Istanbul Sacked Following Businessman Killing

Former Kyrgyz Consul-General Erkin Sopokov
Former Kyrgyz Consul-General Erkin Sopokov

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyzstan's consul-general in Istanbul, Erkin Sopokov, has been sacked two days after a businessman from China's Xinjiang Province was shot dead in Turkey's largest city.

The Kyrgyz presidential press service said on November 12 that President Sooronbai Jeenbekov had signed a decree on removing Sopokov from the position.

On November 10, Aierken Saimait (aka Ayerken Saymaiti), an ethnic Uyghur from Xinjiang, whose name was cited in an investigative report by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service about the illegal withdrawal of some $700 million from Kyrgyzstan, was shot dead in Istanbul.

Turkish media reported that Saimait's car parked nearby had "forged" license plates registered with Kyrgyzstan’s consulate.

However, the Kyrgyz Foreign Ministry said on November 12 that the car belongs to Sopokov and the license plate is legally registered with the consulate.

Earlier in May, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service obtained documents confirming that at least $250 million had been funneled away from Kyrgyzstan via bank accounts belonging to Saimait and a Kyrgyz company.

After RFE/RL's report, Kyrgyzstan’s Service for the Fight Against Economic Crimes confirmed that Saimait, his spouse Vufuli Bumailiamu, and the company Abdyraz had sent more than $646 million from Kyrgyzstan abroad via 11 bank accounts.

The investigation also revealed that the activities of Saimait and his wife had been allegedly linked to a Kyrgyz foundation with ties to the family of Kyrgyz lawmaker Iskender Matraimov.

Matraimov has denied the allegation.

The police chief in Turkey's southern city of Adana, Atilla Kilic, said on November 12 that two Kyrgyz nationals, Husein Akmataliev and Abdullah Enver, as well as a Syrian citizen, Ali Isbeh, had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the killing of Saimait. According to Kilic, the trio was detained when trying to cross the Turkish-Syrian border near Adana.

With reporting by Son Dakika, Bolge Gunden, Hurriyet, and Milliyet

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