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Ex-Prime Minister of Kazakhstan appears before court

Serik Akhmetov ©Turar Kazangapov Serik Akhmetov ©Turar Kazangapov

Former Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Serik Akhmetov has appeared before the court on July 27 in Karaganda for preliminary hearings on the case involving large scale corruption, Tengrinews reports. 

Serik Akhmetov is accused of committing six crimes of corruption: bribery in especially large amount - $2.4 million (360 million tenge), embezzlement of budget funds in the amount of 1.1 billion tenge, three counts of abuse of office with damage to the state worth over 1 billion tenge and illegal involvement in entrepreneurial activities. Akhmetov denies being guilty on any other charges and says he performed his duty in good faith.

More than two dozen other people are accused of being involved in corruption crimes along with Akhmetov, including former Akim (Governor) of Karaganda Oblast Baurzhan Abdishev and ex-Akim (Mayor) of Karaganda city Meyram Smagulov.

Judge of the specialist inter-district court Islamkhan Yesenbayev ruled that the court will consider the petitions of both sides on August 3. Akhmetov’s defense has a lot of those, however the particularities are yet unknown. The start date of the trial is expected to be announced that day as well. But it is also possible that the trial will begin in two weeks’ time.

The ex-Prime Minister arrived at the hearings in a jeep, accompanied by a support group. Going into the courtroom, he smiled and greeted reporters, refraining however from making any statements.

Serik Akhmetov was born on June 25, 1958 in Temirtau, Karaganda Oblast. He began his career in 1975 at the Karaganda Metallurgical Plant as apprentice turner, served in the military (1976-1978), worked in the Communist Party and Komsomol organs (1983 to 1990). In 1993 he received a doctoral degree in Economics from the Russian Academy of Management. He was then an entrepreneur. 

From 1998 Akhmetov held various civil service positions. From September 2006 until November 2009 he worked as Minister of Transport and Communications. On March 3, 2009 he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan.

On August 19, 2009 he was appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of Kazakhstan Engineering company. In November 2009 he was appointed Akim (Governor) of Karaganda Oblast. On January 20, 2012 Serik Akhmetov was appointed First Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan. Starting from September 24, 2012 he served as Prime Minister of Kazakhstan. And his last position was that of Minister of Defense.

The scandal started when Serik Akhmetov unexpectedly resigned from his position as Minister of Defense. Nursultan Nazarbayev accepted his resignation and appointed Imangali Tasmagambetov to replace him in the position on 22 October, 2014.

On 17 November, Nazarbayev declared that no exceptions would be made in the fight against corruption in Kazakhstan. Two days later, Akhmetov was put under house arrest. Employees of the Agency for Civil Service Affairs and Anti-Corruption were conducting round the clock surveillance of Serik Akhmetov. He was not allowed to have phone calls or access Internet. He was not allowed to contact anyone without getting a permission of the investigator. In addition, police was watching the house of the ex-minister from the outside parking lot.

On 13 February, his house arrest was extended for two more months. And on 13 May, the prosecution presented official charges against Akhmetov. On May 15, the house arrest was extended again, this time until 18 June. On 13 July, the case was sent to court.  

Anti-Corruption Agency was investigating a number of serious corruption crimes that involved former leaders of Karaganda Oblast and the city of Karaganda, National Company Social-Entrepreneurial Corporation Saryarka, Special Economic Zone of Industrial Park Metallurgy-Metalworking, and KazAgroFinance national company.

According to the investigation, in 2012 construction of infrastructure in Metallurgy-Metalwork industrial park in Saryarka SEZ included sewerage networks. According to investigators, Tsentrstroy-Komplekt NS LLP, a subcontractor in the project, replaced Czech equipment with a much cheaper one, committing the act in collusion with ex-Akim of the Oblast Serik Akhmetov.

The price difference between the two types of equipment equaling 1.2 billion tenge was appropriated by a group of officials. To conceal theft, according to investigators, they used a money laundering scheme that involved establishing a network of intermediary firms, whose accounts eventually received the funds.

Serik Akhmetov denies all the charges.

But the elder brother of the former Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Serik Akhmetov on Monday, 27 July returned 430 million tenge ($2.29 million) compensating damages to the state, according to Interfax Kazakhstan.  

Akhmetov’s elder brother is the director of Steel Zinc Open Company, which appears in the criminal case as the company that received a major share of state orders for the installation of street lighting poles. Nevertheless, not unlike his brother he does not admit committing any crimes.

By Dinara Urazova



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