July 4, 2022 admin 0 Comments

Kazakh dissident Akezhan Kazhegeldin is spearheading an anti-kleptocracy campaign in America.

Kazhegeldin, the former prime minister of Kazakhstan, has spent huge sums of money hiring lobbyists in Washington DC to influence politicians.

But what American lawmakers may not realise is that Kazhegeldin has repeatedly been accused of benefiting from corruption – even by the United States Department of Justice.

Last year, Kazhegeldin’s anti-kleptocracy campaign group filed applications with the US State and Treasury Departments requesting they sanction six Kazakh oligarchs.

The exiled former prime minister, who fled his homeland in the late 1990s, has also tried to exploit the deadly unrest that erupted across Kazakhstan in January 2022.

His lobbyists have written to dozens of US lawmakers seeking meetings and offering briefings on the political situation in Central Asia.

Kazhegeldin’s efforts appear to be paying off.

Duncan Hunter a Californian Congressman spoke out in 2019 on behalf of Kazhegeldin’s fellow dissident, Bergei Ryskaliyev, who had fled Kazakhstan facing charges of embezzlement in his homeland.

In May 2021, Congressman Bennie Thompson rose in Congress to highlight examples of corruption in Kazakhstan after lobbying by Kazhegeldin’s campaign group.

 

Representative Thompson said: “As Kazakhstan is aspiring to be a strategic partner of the United States, I call on my colleagues to join me in urging the Biden Administration to review this case of kleptocracy and corrupt officials from Kazakhstan and assure that it will be included in our Government’s discussions regarding this important part of the world.”

Unfortunately, these American politicians are supporting an exile who is as much a product of kleptocracy as many of the oligarchs he would like to see sanctioned.

Kazhegeldin is a former KGB operative who faced repeated accusations of corruption during his time in Kazakh politics.

Most damningly, the US Department of Justice concluded that while he was prime minister, Kazhegeldin received “unlawful payments” of at least $6 million as part of the massive bribery scandal known as Kazakhgate.

The Justice Department identified Kazhegeldin as one of three senior Kazakh officials who allegedly received bribes from James Giffen, an American middleman who was negotiating oil deals in Kazakhstan.

The $6 million Giffen paid to Kazhegeldin was siphoned through opaque offshore structures to conceal the transactions. The cash was first sent to a company based in the British Virgin Islands, which in turn was owned by a Liechtenstein foundation.

The case against Giffen was, according to The New York Times, “the largest foreign bribery case brought against an American citizen”.

Kazhegeldin’s involvement in this bribery scandal is not the only blemish on his record and even his own government in Kazakhstan brought bribery and corruption charges against him.

Prosecutors cited numerous examples of Kazhegeldin abusing his position by allegedly receiving bribes to sell public assets at knock-down prices. In one case, Kazakh prosecutors said that Kazhegeldin sold a power station for $200,000 when it was valued at more than £50 million.

The Kazakh Supreme Court found Kazhegeldin guilty in absentia and sentenced him to 10 years in prison.

In exile, Kazhegeldin made his home in London where he has burnished his anti-kleptocracy credentials.

But while advocating for action on corruption, Kazhegeldin lived in a luxury Belgravia property that was owned through murky offshore companies – similar to the opaque structures that are often used by kleptocrats to hide their wealth.

The ex-Kazakh prime minister has also lived in properties owned via companies based in Jersey, Switzerland and Liechtenstein – jurisdictions notorious for their low disclosure requirements, secrecy and relaxed tax regimes.

Given such an extensive charge sheet against Kazhegeldin, why are US politicians choosing to work with him?

Are they aware of his notorious past or have they simply been duped by the exiled former prime minster?

Has former Kazakh prime minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin been duping US politicians into promoting his anti-kleptocracy campaign? was last modified: July 4th, 2022 by admin

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