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Kyrgyz Tycoon Fined $3,000 After Pleading Guilty To Corruption In Funneling Hundreds Of Millions Abroad

Raimbek Matraimov in court earlier this week
Raimbek Matraimov in court earlier this week

BISHKEK -- The former deputy chief of Kyrgyzstan's Customs Service, Raimbek Matraimov, who was placed on the U.S. Magnitsky sanctions list for his involvement in the illegal funneling of hundreds of millions of dollars abroad, has been fined just over $3,000 after pleading guilty to corruption charges.

The Bishkek Birinchi Mai district court ruled on February 11 that, because Matraimov had paid 2 billion soms ($23.7 million) to the State Treasury in damages caused by illegal activities and cooperated with investigators and testified against two top customs officials, he would receive a mitigated punishment of 260,000 soms ($3,088) and no jail time.

After the court's ruling was handed down, Matraimov quickly left the courtroom while refusing to comment to journalists.

Matraimov was detained on corruption charges in October and placed under house arrest.

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Kyrgyz authorities said at the time that he had agreed to pay compensation for the damage he caused. Days later, Kyrgyzstan's government announced an economic amnesty for individuals convicted or suspected in economic crimes.

In June 2019, an investigation by RFE/RL, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, and Kloop implicated Matraimov in a corruption scheme involving the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars out of Kyrgyzstan by Chinese-born Uyghur businessman Aierken Saimaiti, who was assassinated in Istanbul in November 2019.

In early December, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it had slapped sanctions on Matraimov for his role in a vast corruption and money laundering scheme.

The $700 million scheme involved a company controlled by Matraimov bribing officials to skirt customs fees and regulations, as well as engaging in money laundering, "allowing for maximum profits," the Treasury Department said.

The sanctions fell under the Magnitsky Act, a piece of legislation passed by the United States in 2012 that penalizes individuals responsible for committing human rights violations or acts of significant corruption.

Recent reports said that Raimbek Matraimov had changed his last name to Ismailov, and that his wife had changed her surname into Sulaimanova, which was viewed by many as a move to evade the U.S.- imposed sanctions.

Last month, a spokesperson for Kyrgyzstan's state registration service, Damira Azimbaeva, confirmed to RFE/RL that both Matraimov and his wife, Uulkan Turgunova, had changed their surnames.

There have been no official statements from lawyers for Matraimov's family to explain the decision to change surnames.

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