BISHKEK -- The office of Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov says the head of state has never had business ties with a man at the center of a joint investigation by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, OCCRP, and the Kyrgyz news site Kloop about possible wide-scale corruption in the country's customs service and massive outflows of cash from the country.
Presidential spokeswoman Tolgonai Stamalieva said in a statement issued on November 22 that Jeenbekov, before becoming president, met with Khabibula Abdukadyr, a central subject of the investigation, but that he never had any joint business projects with him.
Separately, the Prosecutor-General's Office said on November 22 that it was launching a probe into alleged threats made against Aierken Saimaiti before his killing. The threats were revealed in the joint investigation.
The joint investigation revealed that a 37-year-old Uyghur businessman from China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, Saimaiti, secretly provided reporters with documents demonstrating how hundreds of millions of dollars were moved out of Kyrgyzstan via a network led by Abdukadyr, a Chinese-born Uyghur with a Kazakh passport. Saimaiti was shot dead in Istanbul on November 10.
The joint investigation also uncovered video footage showing Abdukadyr sitting in the second row at Jeenbekov's inauguration in November 2017. Stamalieva said Jeenbekov's inauguration was organized by the team of his predecessor, Almazbek Atambaev, and that Jeenbekov had nothing to do with the list of invitees.
Saimaiti alleged that Raimbek Matraimov, a powerful former Kyrgyz customs official, was instrumental in providing cover for the Abdukadyr network's cargo empire in the region.
The investigation by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, OCCRP, and Kloop also found that Matraimov's wife is a joint investor in a Dubai property development with a company controlled by Abdukadyr.
Saimaiti told reporters prior to his death that, in order to protect himself, he had applied for Turkish citizenship and expected to receive it on November 14. He said he planned to turn over more financial documents to reporters after that.
He was shot dead at a cafe in Istanbul. Turkish police have made several arrests in the case, though details of the suspects’ motives and potential contacts remain murky. The police have also made no official statements on the matter.
The Kyrgyz Prosecutor-General's Office said that it was looking to verify information revealed in the joint investigation, specifically that "unknown persons repeatedly threatened [Saimaiti] with murder, which forced him to flee to the Republic of Turkey."
"The implementation of pretrial proceedings has been entrusted to the investigative service of the Ministry of Internal Affairs," the office said.