Mina Corp, the Pentagon fuel supplier once accused of being everything from a CIA front to the corrupter of Kyrgyz presidents and their sons, is attempting to become a model corporate citizen.
The company is granting $2.5 million to the American University of Central Asia (AUCA), a prestigious, cash-strapped institution catering to bright but often financially challenged students, mostly from Kyrgyzstan.
The money, according to a joint June 8 press release, will be used to create a one-year “bridging” program -- “The New Generation Academy” -- to annually prepare 70 talented high school graduates for a higher education.
In addition, Mina will “pay for 15 full scholarships, including room and board, for the Academy’s most able graduates in both 2013 and 2014 to study for a four-year degree at AUCA.”
Mina Corp doesn’t have many friends in Kyrgyzstan. But even the company’s critics admit $2.5 million earmarked for education is not an unwanted gesture, although some noted the sum is pocket change for Mina and its sister company Red Star Enterprises Ltd, who between them have sewn up hundreds of millions of dollars in fuel contracts at the Manas air base near Bishkek and Bagram air base in Afghanistan.
AUCA President Andrew Wachtel said at a press conference on June 8 that he was introduced to Mina Corp’s initiative in early 2011.
“We were looking for a reliable partner,” he said.
Mina Corp’s representatives did not want to discuss whether or not the grant is an image-improvement exercise. But anything must be better than fending off the bad press Mina is usually gets. Besides, aren’t most charitable donations tax deductible?