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Kyrgyz Security Committee Calls In PM, RFE/RL Journalists For Questioning After Corruption Report

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev

Kyrgyzstan’s National Security Committee said it will question Prime Minister Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev, along with parliamentary deputies and journalists, including two from RFE/RL, over possible wide-scale corruption in the country’s customs service and massive outflows of cash.

A spokesman for the committee said on December 2 that civic activists and members of the Kyrgyz presidential inauguration team will also be summoned for questioning.

The questioning was sparked by a joint investigation by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, the OCCRP, and the Kyrgyz news site Kloop.

Two of those summoned for questioning are Mukhammedali Toktakunov and Ydyrys Isakov, journalists with RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service.

The report revealed that a 37-year-old Uyghur businessman from China's northwestern region of Xinjiang, Aierken Saimaiti, secretly provided reporters with documents demonstrating how hundreds of millions of dollars were moved out of Kyrgyzstan, much of it via a business network led by Khabibula Abdukadyr, a secretive Chinese-born Uyghur with a Kazakh passport.

The chief of Kyrgyzstan's financial police has said since that the amount of cash illegally funneled out of the country is close to $1 billion.

The joint investigation also uncovered video footage showing Abdukadyr sitting in the second row at Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov's inauguration in November 2017.

Saimaiti, who was shot dead in Istanbul on November 10, alleged that former senior official Raimbek Matraimov, while serving as the Kyrgyz customs' deputy chief, was instrumental in providing cover for the Abdukadyr network’s cargo empire in the region.

The investigation also found that Matraimov’s wife is a joint investor in a Dubai property development with a company controlled by Abdukadyr.

Matraimov and his brother, Kyrgyz lawmaker Iskender Matraimov, have denied accusations of wrongdoing by the former customs official.

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. Turkish police have made no official statements on the case.

The Kyrgyz Prosecutor’s Office said on November 22 that it had launched a probe 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."

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