Accessibility links

Breaking News

Following Protests, Authorities Rearrest Kyrgyz Powerbroker Matraimov


Raimbek Matraimov at a court hearing earlier this month.
Raimbek Matraimov at a court hearing earlier this month.

BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Kyrgyzstan's State Committee for National Security (UKMK) has rearrested Raimbek Matraimov, the controversial former deputy chief of the Customs Service, days after demonstrators in Bishkek protested against what they saw as a lenient sentence handed to him on corruption charges.

UKMK officials told RFE/RL on February 18 that Matraimov was arrested due to an ongoing probe launched into money laundering, adding that the decision on Matraimov's pretrial restrictions will be made within 48 hours.

The UKMK move comes four days 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
please wait

No media source currently available

0:00 0:01:14 0:00

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, 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, which 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.

SPECIAL REPORT: Plunder And Patronage In The Heart Of Central Asia

On February 15, a day after the protests, the UKMK said the criminal case against Matraimov would resume if allegations are confirmed that he has numerous properties in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, and Russia.

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.

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

Last month, Damira Azimbaeva, a spokesperson for Kyrgyzstan's 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.

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

If you are in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine and hold a Russian passport or are a stateless person residing permanently in Russia or the Russia-controlled parts of Ukraine, please note that you could face fines or imprisonment for sharing, liking, commenting on, or saving our content, or for contacting us.

To find out more, click here.