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Kyrgyz Acting President Announces 'Economic Amnesty' After Powerful Oligarch's House Arrest

Kyrgyz Acting President Sadyr Japarov announced the amnesty on October 21.

BISHKEK -- Kyrgyzstan's acting president, Sadyr Japarov, has announced an "economic amnesty" for former officials who illegally enriched themselves through corruption, just a day after the former deputy chief of the Customs Service, Raimbek Matraimov, was detained and placed under house arrest on suspicion of graft.

According to an announcement by Japarov on October 21, the amnesty will affect all former officials who served in the "energy sector, customs, taxation, pharmaceuticals, licensing, mining," and other sectors of the economy and used corruption schemes to illegally obtain money.

Japarov gave 30 days for former officials who committed such illegal actions to reveal the corruption schemes and return the money in order to be given "administrative and economic pardons."

The move comes a day after the Kyrgyz State Committee of National Security (UKMK) said it had detained Matraimov, an ally of former President Sooronbai Jeenbekov, as part of a corruption investigation.

The UKMK said that Matraimov had agreed to pay about 2 billion soms ($24.7 million) in damages to the state, and that 80 million soms ($1 million) had already been transferred to its account.

Later in the day, a court in Bishkek remanded Matraimov to house arrest.

Matraimov is one of three brothers from what is rumored to be one of the wealthiest and most-powerful families in Kyrgyzstan. He was a key financial backer for political parties and presidents, including Jeenbekov and the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party, which dominated October 4 parliamentary elections along with a party called Birimdik, which listed Jeenbekov's brother among its ranks.

Protesters, angry at evidence of vote-buying and other improprieties during the vote, seized government buildings after the election results were announced, prompting officials to annul the balloting and Jeenbekov to step down.

In the resulting power vacuum, Japarov, a former nationalist lawmaker and convicted kidnapper who was freed from prison when a mob stormed a Bishkek prison during the protests, was elected prime minister by parliament and then had presidential powers transferred to him when Jeenbekov left office last week.

Last year, a joint investigation by RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, and the Kyrgyz news site Kloop, implicated Matraimov in a corruption scheme involving the transfer of funds out of the country by Chinese-born Uyghur businessman Aierken Saimaiti, who was assassinated in Istanbul in November 2019.

Prior to his killing, Saimaiti provided a trove of financial records to reporters showing how he moved money out of Kyrgyzstan via murky wire transfers and cash couriers over the course of several years.

Matraimov and his family have denied any links to Saimaiti or corruption in the Kyrgyz Customs Service, and filed a libel suit over the investigation.

According to the law on elections, Japarov cannot take part in the early presidential election as the current legislation does not allow acting presidents to seek office.

Earlier this week, Japarov said he will be eligible to take part in the poll if legal changes currently under consideration by lawmakers are adopted.

Some lawmakers are against the amendments, while others say that the law on elections can be amended only via a national referendum.

Early elections must be held no later than three months after the president’s resignation.

The Central Election Commission has set December 20 as the date for new parliamentary elections.

While lawmakers were discussing amendments to the elections law, hundreds of people rallied in front of the Bishkek city administration building, protesting the appointment of Nariman Tuleev to the post of first deputy mayor of the Kyrgyz capital.

A day earlier, Bishkek Mayor Aziz Surakmatov appointed Tuleev as his first deputy and then promptly resigned.

Afterward it was announced that mayoral powers had been handed to Tuleev, who was arrested in September 2010 and three years later sentenced to 10 years in prison on corruption charges.

Tuleev served as Bishkek mayor between 2008 and 2010 when the country was led by President Kurmanbek Bakiev, who was toppled by violent anti-government protests in 2010 that claimed the lives of almost 100 demonstrators.

Anti-Tuleev protesters were confronted by his supporters on October 21.

Tuleev came out of the building and told the protesters that he was ready to leave the post if acting President Japarov asks him to do so.