Eugene Gourevitch, the former head of MGN Capital and ex-board member of numerous strategic objects under former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, has been sentenced in absentia to 15 years in a maximum-security prison for corruption, Kyrgyz media outlets are reporting.
Gourevitch told EurasiaNet.org that the conviction for his role in selling Aalam Services to Manas Aerofuels in 2009 at a knockdown price is politically motivated and evidence of the “total failure” of the Kyrgyz justice system.
“I believe this verdict violates not only Kyrgyz laws, but also common sense. Board members adopted all resolutions unanimously. The CEO executed the decisions of the Board. The trial and verdict are clearly of a political nature and demonstrate the total failure of the Kyrgyz justice system,” he said on March 16.
The investigation into the sale of Aalam Services, the main fuel depot at the Manas International Airport and US air base near Bishkek, opened in May 2010, shortly after Bakiyev was overthrown.
But another defendant in this case, former head of the airport, Bakytbek Sydykov, was acquitted on March 3.
The buyer of Aalam Services, Manas Aerofuels, was created and financed by Mina Corp, the Gibraltar-registered company that holds the previous and current US government contract to supply aviation fuel to the Manas air base.
If you’re reading this blog in Central Asia, you might plug in your laptop and charge your battery-powered lamps before proceeding. You never know when the electricity will be gone for good.
"Central Asia: Decay and Decline," a bleak new report from the International Crisis Group (ICG), says Central Asia’s human and technological infrastructure is nearing collapse, threatening the region with more political instability. Not just buildings, roads and power plants are at risk of falling apart; teachers and doctors are woefully undertrained, underpaid, and neglected by donor-dependent leaders more interested in personal gain than in helping their people.
Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the region’s two poorest countries, face the “increasingly likely prospect of catastrophic systemic collapse,” the wide-ranging report says, tracing most problems to the region’s endemic and mind-boggling graft.
Corruption is so pervasive that, in one case, the family of Kyrgyzstan’s former President Kurmanbek Bakiyev actually stole money from a project to print school textbooks. As a result, less than 40 percent of students in Kyrgyzstan have textbooks.
As energy infrastructure breaks down in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, the threat of more political instability is on the rise. Bakiyev, after all, was overthrown last year largely due to his personal profiteering from the decaying energy system. He left behind a thermal plant in the capital “described as fit only for scrap metal.” But it doesn’t have to be this way. “If they [the government] just quit stealing, they would have an energy sector here,” the report quotes a foreign energy expert in Bishkek as saying.
Maybe it’s not surprising that Russia has fallen in Transparency International’s annual Corruption Perceptions Index. But one thing that should have Moscow ashamed is how the country – despite the size of its economy and its relative liberalism (we’re talking post-Soviet comparisons here) – it has sunk to the level of a small, destitute, despotic former satellite where you can’t drink the water.
Bloomberg headline: “Russia Most Corrupt G-20 Nation in Index, Slides to 154th With Tajikistan.”
Dow Jones: “It was tied with Haiti, Kenya and Tajikistan, and was ranked as the most corrupt country in Europe.”
Washington Post: “Russia tied with Tajikistan, Papua New Guinea and several African countries.”
To be fair, Russia and Tajikistan tied with eight others.
Elsewhere in Central Asia, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan win the dubious distinction of tying for 172 (out of 178). Kyrgyzstan stood at 164, and Kazakhstan, the ignominious chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, beat the rest at 105 to tie with Moldova.
Interesting this defense of nepotism should come as Central Asian leaders are on edge following the unrest in Bishkek, which was caused in large part by President Kurmanbek Bakiyev's relentless nepotism and corruption.
The head of the Strategic Research Center under the Tajik President, Suhrob Sharipov, said President Emomali Rahmon has the right to appoint relatives to senior posts if they have the qualifications, Asia-Plus reported on April 15.
"Family links have always been used and will be used in Tajikistan. We have such a mentality that relatives try to be close to each other. Family links will always be used in our country by everyone no matter who is in power."
Sharipov said the reason nepotism isn't so prevalent in western democracies is because of "demographic problems," as Asia-Plus put it, and because families often live scattered apart.
He does get one thing right, which should give President Rahmon some pause:
"When Askar Akayev was Kyrgyz president, he was accused of appointing his relatives to high state posts and was ousted because of this. Today Kyrgyzstan's opposition is accusing Kurmanbek Bakiyev of giving high posts to his relatives, but Bakiyev's supporters made similar accusations against Askar Akayev in 2005. Now, heads of the Kyrgyz interim government have also started giving high state posts to their relatives and friends."
Several children of Tajik President Emomali Rahmon occupy high-level posts. His 23-year-old son Rustam Emomali is lately enjoying a meteoric rise in politics and is widely considered a possible successor.