Kazakhstan: Jailed Ex-Nuclear Boss Suspects Russian Machinations
The jailed former boss of Kazakhstan’s nuclear industry has marked the fourth anniversary of his arrest by voicing suspicions from his prison cell that Russian machinations were behind the charges against him. Mukhtar Dzhakishev, the highly respected head of Kazakhstan’s state nuclear company Kazatomprom until he was abruptly fired and arrested on May 21, 2009, said he was “convinced” Moscow had “prepared a bundle of accusations and ‘proof’ tailored to Soviet mentality” to have him arrested to stymie a nuclear deal.On the day of his arrest, Dzhakishev was scheduled to meet Sergey Kiriyenko, the visiting head of Russia’s state-run Rosatom nuclear giant, to discuss possible trilateral nuclear collaboration with Japan, he said in comments posted on a website set up by his daughter, Aigerim Dzhakisheva. “[The Russian] delegation had been in Japan and made an offer of a partnership that would exclude Kazakhstan,” Dzhakishev said. “The Japanese refused and demanded to have Kazakhstan included in these deals, as I had previously discussed and agreed with them.”Video filmed after Dzhakishev’s arrest and leaked to YouTube showed him discussing his ambition to transform Kazakhstan's nuclear industry into a world leader and saying he wanted to stop Russian investors gaining a controlling stake in Uranium One, a Canada-based company with operations in Kazakhstan, which he believed would impede Kazakhstan's atomic ambitions.Shortly afterward a Rosatom-owned company, ARMZ, acquired a stake in Uranium One in a deal that raised questions about a potential conflict of interest: The son of Dzhakishev’s successor at Kazatomprom, Vladimir Shkolnik, is married to the daughter of ARMZ director Vadim Zhivov. Critics also suspect a political element to Dzhakishev’s case, which Astana denies. Dzhakishev is close to fallen tycoon and Nazarbayev foe Mukhtar Ablyazov, who fled Kazakhstan shortly before Dzhakishev’s arrest and is currently on the run from British justice after a court ordered him jailed for concealing assets in a fraud case. Dzhakishev was sentenced to 14 years in prison on corruption charges he denied in 2010. In 2012, after another corruption trial, he was given a further 10-year jail term to run concurrently. Dzhakishev previously enjoyed a reputation as an upstanding businessman who, in over a decade heading Kazatomprom, rescued Kazakhstan’s uranium industry from the brink of collapse and positioned it as a world leader. In 2009 Kazakhstan achieved the long-cherished goal of becoming the world's top uranium producer.“The last four years of his imprisonment have demonstrated shocking violations of human rights and opened the eyes of many people to the abuse, corruption and injustice which characterize the regime in Kazakhstan,” Dzhakisheva said on the anniversary of her father’s arrest.
Joanna Lillis is a journalist based in Almaty and author of Dark Shadows: Inside the Secret World of Kazakhstan.
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