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Notorious Kyrgyz Crime Boss Released From Pretrial Detention

Kamchy Kolbaev pictured in 2013
Kamchy Kolbaev pictured in 2013

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz organized-crime figure Kamchy Kolbaev, who was added by Washington to a list of major global drug-trafficking suspects in 2011, has been released from pretrial detention and ordered not to leave Bishkek.

Aisulu Jaasynova, spokeswoman at the Bishkek City Court, told RFE/RL that the decision to change Kolbaev’s pretrial restrictions was made on March 2. She did not say why the decision was made.

Kolbaev, who is known as a "thief-in-law," a title traditionally given to kingpins among criminal groups in former Soviet republics, was detained on suspicion of organizing a criminal group and participating in the activities of an organized criminal group on October 22, 2020.

The U.S. Embassy in Bishkek welcomed Kolbaev's detention at the time it was announced and expressed hope that Kyrgyz authorities would "prosecute and continue to detain this dangerous criminal leader in the interest of public safety.”

In late 2012, Kolbaev was extradited to Kyrgyzstan from the United Arab Emirates at Bishkek's request and sentenced to 5 1/2 years in prison on extortion charges. His prison term was later shortened to three years without explanation.

In June 2014, Kolbaev was granted an early release, which Kyrgyz officials explained by saying that each day spent by an inmate in a detention center is equal to two days in a penal colony.

Weeks before his early release, the U.S. State Department offered a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of Kolbaev's criminal network, which it described as being "part of the broader Brothers' Circle transnational criminal organization composed of leaders and members of several Eurasian criminal groups."

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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