Kazakhstan: Prosecutors Hunt Mystery Millionaire Offical
Kazakhstan is abuzz with this week’s supposed revelations about how a government official bought an apartment in Paris for a whopping 65 million euros ($76.5 million). After initially scoffing at the reports, authorities have now begun to take an active interest.
A report on the transaction in Mansion Global, a Dow Jones-owned luxury real estate news website, did not name the buyer or the seller, who is identified only as a “Russian investor.”
If the report is accurate, the official in question will have quite the space in which to luxuriate. “The 1,200-square-meter (12,900-square-foot) home has five bedrooms, five bathrooms, a spa and separate wing for the staff,” Mansion Global noted, adding that the property is equipped with a 55-square-meter panic room.
Excited Kazakh media contacted Ignace Meuwissen, the Belgian in-between for the deal, who explained that he has many clients from Kazakhstan wishing to buy homes in Europe for their children. Meuwissen told KTK television station that Kazakh buyers typically don’t count their money and are willing to pay two or three times over the real value of a property. In this instance, the apartment was actually worth 25 million euros, Meuwissen told KTK.
Still, maybe this would-be official is not so wasteful after all.
In another interview, Meuwissen told Sputnik Kazakhstan that the former owner of the property invested 100 million euros on theinterior design, so Kazakh taxpayers should, if anything, be satisfied with the negotiating skills of their reputed compatriot official.
Meuwissen went further in his interview to Sputnik Kazakhstan, revealing that the buyer of the apartment had also bought four German-branded cars, two for themselves and the others for the security detail. Exasperatingly, however, having flapped his gums to this degree, Meuwissen was unwilling to name the supposed official in question.
The public in Kazakhstan was only able to guess wildly who this mystery person might be, as well grumble about the uncontrolled levels of corruption riddling the country.
Officials in turn tried to throw cold water on the whole story.
Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov on November 15 called the affair a rumor based on the tittle-tattle of a broker. He also ruled out that the purchase had been made officially on behalf of the government, but suggested instead that the acquisition might be a personal investment.
All the same, General Prosecutor Zhakip Asanov told reporters that the State Revenues Committee would investigate the claims in the Mansion Global report. Asanov said he would reveal all once the investigations were done.
The topic of corruption and misuse of state funds is a hot one these days, given the spate of criminal cases on one hand and the lavish and often inefficient expenditure on vanity projects, like EXPO-2017, on the other. And in recent months, a wave of online criticism has been leveled at state efforts to bail out sloppily run banks to the tune of many billions of dollars.
Writing on his Facebook page, political commentator Sergei Duvanov wondered why it was that the revelations about the apartment-buying official had come to light at all.
“Where have you ever seen a broker so eagerly sharing information about their deals? And it is hardly just a coincidence that this news was also carried by a number of pro-government news outlets,” Duvanov wrote. “This looks like an purposeful leak. It looks like somebody in [President Nursultan] Nazarbayev’s close entourage (and who obviously knows the owners of these outlets) is smearing their political opponents, discrediting them in the eyes of the general public and undermining the president’s trust in them.”
Almaz Kumenov is an Almaty-based journalist.