Kazakhstan: Money, Kidnapping, Money, Power, Money…

“The headline is not a text from James Bond film trailer. It is how they do business in Kazakhstan”, wrote Jana Zhukova is Livejournal community of Almaty residents (RUS). She referred to mysterious set of events that surrounded “Nurbank”, the seventh largest bank in Kazakhstan connected with the President's son-in-law Rakhat Aliev. On January 31 five armed people stormed the building of the bank but were stopped by the bank's security guards.

Karaganda Nurbak

Image used courtesy of Joshua Foust

In the following several days the news came with amazing speed: Janna writes on (RUS). First the law-enforcement agencies said they had no idea of what was going on. Then, it turned out that the armed people were … the officers of the special forces of the police, who came to free the hostage! And finally, on February 4th several local and international media outlets received a letter from Kapasheva Armangul addressed to the President of the country Nazarbayev. Armangul is a wife of Timraliev Zholdas, the first deputy Head of the Board of “Nurbank”. In this letter, she claimed that her husband was kidnapped. Twice.

The first kidnapping of Armangul's husband happened on January 18, after the Board meeting. She writes that in the evening of the same day, her husband was taken into a private bath-house, handcuffed, beaten and threatened with gun. Kapasheva maintains that no one else but Rakhat Aliyev was doing it himself.

What did he want? According to her letter, he demanded Timraliev to phone the owners of “Ken Dala” business center, where “Nurbank” occupies an office space, and arrange its transfer to Aliyev. The hostage had to do so. A day later he was brought home. On January 31 (the day of the armed attack on a bank) he went to a meeting with the management of the bank and its shareholder Rakhat Aliyev. Before he left for a meeting he asked his wife to report to the police if something happened to him. He is still not home.

Zonakz.net, former Navigator or Navi, was not accessible on the day when the news broke. Now it's up again and has plenty of comments (mostly anonymous) on this news. I tried to single out and bring forward those few voices that spoke about it (the topic of the “Family” is usually avoided, plus only few sites reported about it) and you might be seeing a bit more of my own voice here than usual.

KUB blog, whose author recently got a two-years suspended sentence, continues providing updates from different authors. As one of them, tiffozi, writes (RUS), Timraliev phoned his wife and said that he is hiding because of the charges brought against him by the financial police. Another colleague of Timraliev, Abel Gilimov is also missing, and he also faces charges. It is believed that Gilimov is relative to Almaty mayor whose clan is said to be in a nasty confrontation with the clan of Aliyev.

Following these conflicting accounts, deputy Dariga Nazarbayeva, Presiden't daughter, described the case as a serious criminal offence, without any politics involved. “As far as I know”, she said, “Timraliev is under a house arrest. I don't know how his wife does not see it…”. Rakhat Aliyev himself commented as well: “… the information on a disappeared former employee of the bank is an obvious libel resembling carefully planned provocation. As far as I know, this person is suspected in a criminal offence and at the moment is under house arrest giving evidence to inspectors. “Nurbank” administration already stated that it would resort to legal protection of its reputation against slander and dirty insinuations. As the bank shareholder, I join this claim”.

There were several comments on Janna Zhukova's post:

LJ user Kubekov said: Well… If doctor Aliyev (Aliyev is a former surgeon) put his hand in it… This is like a cheap action film!

LJ user teihe: Make your bets, gentlemen, on the President's reaction.

It is indeed interesting how the President will react on this, when two clans are involved, one of them being led by his daughter's husband. Some people say it is possible that he will become an ambassador again, as it was after 2001, when he was sent to Austria for several years following similarly mysterious events involving, as some claim, his ambitions for power.

During these events, the President was with an official visit to Germany, where chancellor Angela Merkel was not shy to speak about the human rights situation in Kazakhstan, writes Ben on neweurasia. She particularly offered their help and cooperation in building the legal system. “It’s quite interesting to note that ex-Soviet countries, 17 years into their independence, are still being awarded discounts for their infantile nationhood along the lines of “oh, you’re building a legal system from scratch, of course that takes time”. Sure, the establishment of a sound legal system has taken decades in the Western world, but the time during which points like Merkel’s make sense is slowly running out”, comments Ben.

In his turn, Nazarbayev was not shy when it came to beer-drinking and chose all three from the list of rituals: a woman, a sword and a beer. “Like Putin some years ago, Nazarbaev then downed a huge beer jug and kneed down for his accolade. Now he is a proper Spandau knight”.

In Ukraine, the activists of Novaya Pora movement picketted the building where Nazarbayev was meeting Yushchenko. They held up slogans that said: “Nazarbayev, Don't Make Kuchma's Mistakes!”, explaining that Kazakhstan experiences all that Ukraine did during Kuchma – supression of freedom of speech, denial of registration of opposition parties, unfair elections.

Nazarbayev though has more important things at home to sort out. We shall see.


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