Kyrgyzstan’s local government councils are infested with gangsters, according to the Interior Ministry.
Speaking at a meeting of parliament’s Ata-Meken faction on August 20, Interior Minister Abdulla Suranchiev named over 20 figures in local governments across Kyrgyzstan that he alleges have ties to organized crime.
Not all of the councilors Suranchiev named have criminal records. Details on the accused, later relayed by 24.kg, were limited to names, dates of birth and presumed association with alleged criminal leaders such as Kamchybek Kolbayev, Maksat Abakirov and Almas Bokushev.
Cynics believe Ata-Meken party leader Omurbek Tekebayev engineered the expose as a PR stunt ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections. Ata-Meken has suffered serious brand damage since scraping into the legislature in 2010. Political rivals have accused three of its members, including Tekebayev, of looting during the 2010 revolution. Another scandal struck the party in 2012 when it emerged that one of its candidates for a municipal seat in Jalal-Abad Province was a seasoned criminal with the record to prove it.
Ata-Meken deputies featured on the Interior Minister’s list, but so did officials from other political factions such as President Almazbek Atambayev’s Social Democratic Party, former Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov’s Respublika and Felix Kulov’s Ar-Namys. The breadth of the list helps make organized crime in government look like the nationwide problem it is. Yet despite widespread belief that a number of sitting members of parliament are involved in criminal activities, Suranchiev only named one member of the national legislature – Bakytbek Zhetigenov of the Ar-Namys faction – as having ties with the criminal world.
Politics and crime have long jived in Kyrgyzstan’s culture of corruption and impunity. Following the country’s first revolution, in 2005, the brother of Kyrgyz crime lord Ryspek Akhmatbaev, Tynchybek, somehow wound up as head of the parliament’s committee on defense and security. He died in a gangland killing a few months later. Ryspek was murdered the following year.
Akmatbek Keldibekov, an MP in the Ata-Jurt faction, was forced to resign as the parliamentary speaker in 2011 amid accusations that he was too friendly with the most notorious criminal kingpin of the age, Kolbayev. Kolbayev was released from captivity in June after serving one-and-a-half years on kidnapping and criminal conspiracy charges, a sentence many – including American officials – saw as trifling considering the evidence. Meanwhile, Keldibekov, currently on trial for corruption during his time as head of the tax office, has been allowed to leave the country for “urgent medical care” in Germany. Few expect him to return.
The Interior Ministry denied in a statement that its decision to publicize the list was in any way aimed at “political goals.”