Following a year long investigation, the Corruption and Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) have published their full findings on Kazakhstan II, produced in collaboration with the Peter Zalmayev of Eurasia Democracy Initiative.
Kazakhstan II is the name given to $48.8 million in funds belonging to the people of Kazakhstan, confiscated by the Swiss Government in 2011 following a Geneva judicial investigation.
The funds were restituted back to Kazakhstan through a high-risk return strategy, brokered and overseen by the World Bank. CHRI’s findings reveal that the return process has been tarnished by conflicts of interest, political patronage, evidence of fraud, and serious breaches of transparency and reporting requirements.
Co-author of the report, Professor Kristian Lasslett, observes: “$48.8 million in frozen assets were funnelled back to Kazakhstan very quietly by the Swiss government through a series of opaque instruments. The World Bank and Kazakh Government unfortunately led the public to believe this was Swiss development aid, its shady origins were hidden from victims”.
Free from the close public and international security returned assets ordinarily garner, the high-risk return strategy saw the funds being steered by a consortium of Gongos headed by the President of Kazakhstan’s daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva, who is a senior Nur Otan politician in her own right.
The report’s co-author Tom Mayne notes: “The money found its way into lavish propaganda campaigns, and organisations headed by Zhas Otan officials, the youth wing of the country’s authoritarian Nur Otan party. We also came across quite disarming evidence of fraud”.
CHRI and the reports authors are calling on the Swiss Government and World Bank to put a freeze on any further non-essential expenditure, so a thorough independent investigation can be conducted into the application of the restituted funds, and new oversight structures engineered that can protect the assets from any further abuse.
Fatima Kanji who heads CHRI’s London office concludes: “Victims of corruption in Kazakhstan have unfortunately seen their assets mishandled by the World Bank and Swiss Government. They consciously set a low demonstrable standard for responsible asset return confirming the very fears of civil society: the repatriation of assets without public knowledge or consultation, and the repeated misuse of corrupt assets. As the Swiss fast approach the restitution of over half a billion US Dollars in stolen assets to neighbouring Uzbekistan, now is the time to learn the lessons of Kazakhstan II to ensure these mistakes are not repeated”.
By Fatima Kanji