It seems that clemency is a dirty word for Kyrgyzstan’s kingpins and power brokers. In early September, Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government offered amnesty to anyone suspected of large-scale embezzlement in either the state or private sector. But after the closing of the month-long window of opportunity, provisional officials revealed that only two individuals sought to take up the government’s pardon offer, and both were ruled ineligible.
The amnesty offer, outlined in a presidential decree issued September 6, was designed to draw a line under the corrupt practices that reputedly prevailed during Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s administration, and focus public and private attention on putting Kyrgyzstan on a sounder economic footing. Kyrgyzstan has a huge budget deficit and any cash recouped under the amnesty offer would have helped plug fiscal gaps. “As a new democratic state, we wanted to move in a direction that is open and transparent, it was a move to counter to what went on before,” said Jusupbek Akmatov, a member of the state commission for investigating Bakiyev-era financial malpractice.
Clemency was offered to anyone suspected economic crimes committed between March 24, 2005, and April 7, 2010. Pardons were conditioned on the return of allegedly embezzled funds, and a requirement to refrain from engaging in politics or holding an appointive and governance for five years.
The only two individuals who sought a pardon were Tursun Turdumambetov, the former head of the State Property Committee, and a former defense minister, Bakyt Kalyev. Provisional officials rejected both applications. “We refused to give them amnesty because our law enforcement agencies recovered what [Turdumambetov and Kalyev]. They had nothing to return,” Akmatov told EurasiaNet.org on October 4. He went on to insist that the pardon plan was not a failure, despite the fact that it had no takers.
Elmira Nogoibaeva, a political analyst and head of the Polis-Asia research center in Bishkek, applauded the amnesty offer, but suggested that it was ill-timed. “Overall, the initiative was positive in and of itself. It was a good, rational step forward, no matter how it ended,” Nogoibaeva said. “But at the moment we don’t have a stable or permanent political or legal situation. Everybody is waiting for the formation of a new government. For people with a lot of capital, the amnesty was a big risk. They want to wait first and look at the new government, because nobody knows what will happen after the elections.”
Parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 10.
Deputy Prime Minister Azimbek Beknazarov labeled those who declined to take advantage of the pardon offer as arrogant, adding that several pending cases against accused white-collar suspects would now proceed. “They didn’t want to ask forgiveness from the people and return what was illegally taken. As a result their criminal cases are going to court,” Beknazarov said on September 30.
Among prominent former officials and business executives accused by the government of financial misdeeds are: Alexei Shirshov, the former head of the weapons company Dastan; Mikhail Nadel, the ex-chairman of Asia Universal Bank; Marat Alapaev, former chairman of the National Bank; and Alexei Eliseev, ex-deputy director of the Kyrgyz Central Agency for Development, Investment and Innovation. All of the accused fled Kyrgyzstan amid the collapse of the Bakiyev administration in early April. They thus would have to be tried in absentia.
Akmatov said that although the criminal cases would be vigorously pursued, the process would likely be protracted. “I think these cases will take very long time. Because many of the people escaped it means they won’t be present in the court which will prolong the consideration of each case,” Akmatov said.
Deirdre Tynan is a Bishkek-based journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs.