Kazakhstan: The Head of Free Trade Zone Detained in US$ 1 Million Bribe Case

The Almaty City Court on Thursday detained the head of a Silk Road free-trade zone between China and Kazakhstan for two months on sus­pi­cion of accept­ing a US$ 1 mil­lion bribe.

Investigators say Vassiliy Ni, who heads the Khorgos International Center of Cross-Border Cooperation (ICBC), was paid by the Khorgos Tulpan Company to ensure that it won a ten­der to build a hotel at the site.

Ni was arrest­ed on Monday, Sept. 5, by offi­cers of Kazakhstan’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau. They say the bribe was offered through a subordinate.

Ni’s lawyer said that her client is inno­cent, and she will prove it, accord­ing to Today.kz

Khorgos ICBC is an eco­nom­i­cal­ly impor­tant free trade zone between China and Kazakhstan where busi­ness­es can import and export prod­ucts with­out pay­ing duty fees. The site, with Kazakh and Chinese sec­tors on the bor­der of the two coun­tries, has a total area of 560 hectares con­nect­ed by a bor­der crossing.

The site “was meant to be a game-chang­ing cat­a­lyst of inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion and com­merce,” says the Invest in Kazakhstan web­site. “Straddling the bor­der between China and Kazakhstan, it was to become a place where traders from all over China and the [Commonwealth of Independent States] could come to exchange their wares duty-free.”

Marketed as a huge new city at the inter­sec­tion of two civ­i­liza­tions, the ICBC was envi­sioned as “a mul­ti-cul­tur­al eco­nom­ic plat­form where Kazakhs, oth­er Central Asians, Russians, and Chinese could come togeth­er and pur­chase each other’s goods, dine on each other’s cui­sine, and con­sume each other’s enter­tain­ment and cul­ture,” the piece continues.

There were to be hotels, amuse­ment cen­ters, restau­rants, and an ethno­graph­ic park for the enjoy­ment of vis­i­tors from every cor­ner of Eurasia, who would tech­ni­cal­ly be per­mit­ted to remain in the zone for up to 30 days visa free. But this grand vision has yet to transpire.”

A report by the Kazakh Ministry of Economy says that over the past six months, Kazakh trade with China reached $ 3.6 bil­lion. According to the report, China ranked sec­ond by the vol­ume of trade turnover with Kazakhstan, after Russia.

On June 25, Forbes Magazine’s Kazakh edi­tion released an inter­view with Ni in which he was quot­ed as say­ing he is work­ing to change the ICBC’s image to get rid of its neg­a­tive his­to­ry of high-pro­file crim­i­nal cases.

Today the name Khorgos does not have the best asso­ci­a­tions,” Ni said. “Therefore, we are in the process of re-brand­ing. I would like the col­ors to be brighter, and for the sun to be shin­ing brightly.”


Kazakhstan: The Head of Free Trade Zone Detained in US$ 1 Million Bribe Case

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