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Former Kazakh PM under house arrest on corruption charges

Serik Akhmetov ©Turar Kazangapov Serik Akhmetov ©Turar Kazangapov

Former Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Serik Akhmetov has been put under house arrest, a Tengrinews correspondent reports.

Serik Akhmetov is the highest ranking official to face criminal charges in recent years. He started his career in Karaganda and eventually rose to the position of an Oblast Mayor. In 2011 he was appointed First Deputy Prime Minister of Kazakhstan and by 2012 he stood at the helm of the Cabinet. Akhmetov then served as Prime Minister between September 2012 and April 2014.

He was appointed Minister of Defense of Kazakhstan in 2014 but spent only six months in that office. On October 22 he was dismissed from the post at his own request.

Now, only a month later, he is facing criminal charges.

The news comes amidst corruption scandal raging in Karaganda Oblast, where Akhmetov’s political career started. There, Akim (Governor) of the Oblast Baurzhan Abdishev was detained in September this year on suspicion of abuse of office.

This was followed by the arrest of former Akim (Mayor) of Karaganda city Meiram Smagulov and head of the department on land relations Yernar Daribekov. Other Karaganda officials are suspected of being involved in corruption related crimes as well.

"Anti-corruption agencies are investigating a number of serious corruption criminal cases against former ranking officials of Karaganda Oblast and the city of Karaganda, National Company Socio – Entrepreneurial Corporation “Saryarka” JSC, Special Economic Zone Industrial Park Metallurgy and Metalworking, KazAgroFinance JSC: Baurzhan Abdishev, Meiram Smagulov, Anatoly Esse, Gumar Rakhimzhanov and others. As part of the investigation Serik Akhmetov, born in 1958, was also charged, and the court of Kazybek bi region in Karaganda has sanctioned his house arrest," the statement of the Agency for Civil Service Affairs and Anti-Corruption reads.

The house arrest will last until January 18, 2015. He will have to spend these two months at home in Karaganda. After that the court will make a new decision.

Serik Akhmetov is charged with embezzlement of budget funds on a large scale, press-secreatry of the Court of Kazybek bi Region of Karaganda city Aliya Zhosheva said.

The charges come under the Article 176 clause 4 of the Criminal Code of Kazakhstan: Conversion or Embezzlement of entrusted other people's property. Since the embezzlement is qualified as a large scale one and Serik Akhmetov was a government official when committing it, he will face a prison term of 7 to 12 years with confiscation of property and deprivation of the right to occupy certain government positions for another five years if he is found guilty. 

In spite of the seriousness of the charges the court saw house arrest as a sufficient pretrial restriction measure.

"Serik Akhemtov has no previous convictions, has a permanent place of residence, has good pre sentence report, and he is married. The court has also considered his health. Having analysed all the circumstances the court concluded that house arrest was an expedient measure of restraint, and there was no need for total custody,"  Zhosheva said. 

She added that head of the investigation team was the one who filed a motion to the prosecutor requesting house arrest for Akhmetov, which means that house arrest was an initiative of the prosecuting authority. 

No more details were disclosed since the information constitutes a secret of investigation.

It is worth noting that just two days ago, on November 17, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said there would be no exceptions in the fight against corruption in Kazakhstan. He made the statement during his meeting with the Attorney General and head of the Agency for Civil Service Affairs and Combating Corruption Kairat Kozhamzharov.

"We are prosecuting high-ranking officials in spite their posts. Everyone gets what one deserves if they violate the law and get involved in corruption," Nazarbayev said.

By Dinara Urazova and Tatyana Kuzmina

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