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Charges Against Kyrgyz Ex-President In Kumtor Case Dropped, Says Associate

Former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev (file photo)
Former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev (file photo)

BISHKEK -- Charges in the high-profile Kumtor gold-mine case against the ousted first president of independent Kyrgyzstan, Askar Akaev, have been dropped, his associate says.

Bekbolot Talgarbekov told RFE/RL on December 20 that Akaev, who traveled to Bishkek last week for the second time since August for questioning in connection with the Kumtor investigation, had left the country for Moscow after he was interrogated at the State Committee for National Security (UKMK).

The UKMK has yet to issue an official statement on Akaev. There were no official statements regarding Akaev's December 14 arrival in Bishkek either. Akaev's relatives told RFE/RL last week that he came to the Central Asian nation's capital "for at least five days."

It was Akaev's second trip to the former Soviet republic since he fled peaceful pro-democracy rallies in 2005. His first trip in early August was also related to the investigation of the Kumtor gold-mine case.

Kumtor, one of the world's largest gold mines, has been at the heart of financial and environmental disagreements for years and is currently the subject of an ongoing battle for control between the Kyrgyz state and the mine's operator, Canadian Centerra Gold.

The UKMK said in July that Akaev and another exiled former Kyrgyz president, Kurmanbek Bakiev, had been added to the international wanted list as part of the Kumtor corruption probe.

According to the UKMK, Centerra Gold paid bribes to top Kyrgyz officials, including Akaev, Bakiev, and another former president, Almazbek Atambaev, who is currently jailed in another case.

Akaev fled to Russia during the so-called Tulip Revolution in 2005. He was president from 1990 to 2005, but since his departure had avoided returning to Kyrgyzstan even for the burial of close relatives.

Bakiev has been in exile in Belarus since being toppled by anti-government protests in 2010.

The giant Kumtor gold project has been the focus of international attention since a new Kyrgyz government moved to temporarily take over operations at the mine over what President Sadyr Japarov said was a necessary move to remedy environmental and safety violations.

In May, the Kyrgyz government approved a law allowing it to take control for up to three months of any company that operates under a concession agreement in Kyrgyzstan if that firm violates environmental regulations, endangers the local environment or lives of people, or causes other significant damage.

Centerra has called the Kyrgyz actions "wrongful and illegal" and said in July that it had filed additional arbitration claims against the government in Bishkek over Kumtor.

Earlier this year, Kyrgyz authorities arrested several former officials and current lawmakers in connection with the case.

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

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