One question – one answer” – Akezhan Kazhegeldin’s information project

Social net­works have made politi­cians acces­si­ble to jour­nal­ists, who can now ask them direct­ly the ques­tions that Kazakh soci­ety and peo­ple on social media are talk­ing about. The answers giv­en by the politi­cian Akezhan Kazhegeldin, one of the first wave of émi­grés from Kazakhstan, known for his intel­li­gence and ana­lyt­i­cal mind, will be espe­cial­ly inter­est­ing to our read­ers. Leading Kazakh jour­nal­ist Rozlana Taukina spoke to the for­mer Prime Minister.

- President Nazarbayev has instruct­ed the Anti-Corruption Agency to step up its fight against cor­rup­tion. There were few results in pre­vi­ous years. Recently you said that you reg­u­lar­ly inform the President where exact­ly to look for the mon­ey tak­en out of Kazakhstan by cor­rupt offi­cials. You were the first to draw atten­tion to the approx­i­mate­ly half a bil­lion held in for­eign accounts by Sauat Mynbayev. How real­is­tic is it to expect enough mon­ey to be recov­ered by Kazakhstan to pull the coun­try out of its cur­rent state of eco­nom­ic collapse?

– Let’s com­pare two dif­fer­ent approach­es to fight­ing cor­rup­tion. We will call them the “agency” approach and the “roy­al” approach. Recently we have seen the two meth­ods in action, with very dif­fer­ent results. First, the “agency” approach. Kairat Kozhamzharov has report­ed to the President that in the first ten months of 2017 exact­ly one thou­sand cas­es of cor­rup­tion were passed on to the courts. According to him, the state, thanks to the Agency, had recov­ered 11 bil­lion tenge. Divide 11 bil­lion by a thou­sand and you get an aver­age eco­nom­ic impact of 11 mil­lion tenge per case. That is USD 33,333. And 33 cents. That’s noth­ing, a fic­tion, a pale imi­ta­tion of a fight against corruption.

Kairat Kozhamzharov has report­ed to the President Nazarbaev

Now let’s look at the “roy­al” approach. In Saudi Arabia, in the course of ten days, 11 princes under threat of crim­i­nal pros­e­cu­tion agreed to trans­fer USD 800 bil­lion to the Saudi trea­sury. That is all mon­ey from oil – there are no oth­er sources of income in the Kingdom.

Now some sim­ple arith­metic. Kazakhstan pro­duces eight times less oil than Saudi Arabia. Even ignor­ing the oth­er nat­ur­al resources that are extract­ed in Kazakhstan and then stolen, the Kazakh trea­sury should receive a min­i­mum of USD 100 bil­lion from the arrest of 11 Kazakh “princes”.

Kairat Kozhamzharov is in no hur­ry to freeze Mynbayev’s accounts. Instead, he is busy catch­ing fire inspec­tors and deputy dis­trict akims… I repeat my sug­ges­tion to the Anti-Corruption Agency: get in touch with three well-known banks in Switzerland, Germany and the Isle of Man, freeze the accounts of our cap­i­tal­ist Minister and imme­di­ate­ly secure 165 bil­lion tenge for the state’s coffers!

People ask me why I am talk­ing to Nursultan Nazarbayev – he won’t be able to deal with cor­rupt offi­cials – there’s his age, his fam­i­ly, fatigue, the fear of change… But age in itself is not an obsta­cle. The Saudi King Salman is six years old­er than President Nazarbayev. And all the princes there are lit­er­al­ly mem­bers of his fam­i­ly. But King Salman, who both old and seri­ous­ly ill, is dri­ven by the idea of turn­ing his king­dom from a mere source of raw mate­ri­als, an appendage of sorts, into a dynam­ic pow­er. Wouldn’t the first President of Kazakhstan like to go down in his­to­ry for doing that?

Billions of dol­lars are being held by cor­rupt Kazakh offi­cials in for­eign banks. The mon­ey will soon be seized any­way, either by the new author­i­ties in Kazakhstan or by Western gov­ern­ments. Nazarbayev could bring back bil­lions to Kazakhstan “gen­tly”, between fam­i­ly mem­bers, as it were.

Timur Kulibayev and Dinara Nazarbaeva

Dariga Nazarbayeva, Timur Kulibayev and the President’s oth­er daugh­ters and sons-in-law would all ulti­mate­ly be grate­ful to the head of the fam­i­ly for giv­ing them and their chil­dren the cer­tain­ty of a safe future. Clearly, in such a sit­u­a­tion, the Anti-Corruption Agency should not be head­ed by Kairat Kozhamzharov but by the President himself.

Another exam­ple of why Kazakh mon­ey urgent­ly needs to be recov­ered is because it is going to be found and con­fis­cat­ed by the Americans. A scan­dal is erupt­ing in the United States about the com­pa­ny Uranium One, which bought up Kazakhstan’s reserves of this strate­gic raw mate­r­i­al. The deal has meant noth­ing but trou­ble for every­one: Mukhtar Ablyazov is on the run, Mukhtar Dzhakishev was in jail, Bill and Hillary Clinton are fight­ing off charges. On the oth­er hand, Vladimir Shkolnik’s fam­i­ly got their bil­lion dollars.

Shkolnik him­self spent his entire life in pub­lic ser­vice, but his son and oth­er rel­a­tives sud­den­ly became very rich. With the mon­ey from the sale of Kazakh nat­ur­al resources, they acquired prop­er­ty and oth­er assets in Canada, the US, Europe and Russia, such as the Omsk Refinery.

Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev meets with Vladimir Shkolnik.

Rather than wait­ing for an American court to act, Kazakh inves­ti­ga­tors should go to Cyprus and Singapore and find out which banks the mon­ey from Kazakh ura­ni­um is being held in, and how Vladimir Shkolnik’s chil­dren are man­ag­ing com­pa­nies such as Mydinami Finance Ltd., Sermules Enterprises Ltd., Banald Traiding Ltd., Truetech PTE.

I appeal to my col­leagues from Zagranburo [the over­seas office of the Kazakh oppo­si­tion – Translator’s note] to help the Agency for Civil Service Affairs and Anti-Corruption with infor­ma­tion about the enor­mous for­tunes of Kazakh “princes” and “princess­es” abroad. That infor­ma­tion is out there, cir­cu­lat­ing among inter­na­tion­al experts. As Chinese President Xi Jinping has said in a sim­i­lar con­text, we must crack down on “tigers”, not “flies”.

Written by Rozlana Taukina

Novaya Gazeta”, Almaty, November 29, 2017

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