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Following Protests, Kyrgyz Authorities Mull Reopening Matraimov Probe

Raimbek Matraimov (file photo)
Raimbek Matraimov (file photo)

BISHKEK -- One day after hundreds protested in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security (UKMK) said a probe into former deputy chief of the Customs Service Raimbek Matraimov could be reopened.

In its February 15 statement, the UKMK said the criminal case against 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, would resume if allegations are confirmed that he has numerous properties in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, and Russia.

The UKMK also said that investigations to establish if Matraimov had a deeper involvement in the illegal funneling of more than $700 million abroad continue.

The UKMK statement came a day after hundreds rallied in the Kyrgyz capital, protesting a Bishkek court ruling last week that ordered a mitigated sentence and no jail time for Matraimov.

Kyrgyz Anti-Corruption Protesters Demand Government Action
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Matraimov was fined just over $3,000 after pleading guilty to corruption charges. The court said on February 11 that Matraimov had paid back around $24 million that disappeared through corruption schemes that he oversaw.

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 subsequently assassinated in Istanbul in November 2019.

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The estimated $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 U.S. Treasury Department said.

The participants in the protest in Bishkek condemned the court ruling, chanting, "Arrest Raim!" and "Raim must be held responsible!"

Recent reports said that the 49-year-old Matraimov had changed his last name to Ismailov, and that his wife, Uulkan Turgunova, had changed her family name to Sulaimanova in moves seen as an attempt to evade the U.S.- imposed sanctions.

Last month, Damira Azimbaeva, a spokeswoman for the state registration service, confirmed to RFE/RL that both Matraimov and his wife had changed their surnames.

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

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