Kyrgyzstan: Manas Fuel Supplier Hitting Back at Bishkek
Mina Corp, the controversial aviation fuel supplier to the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan, is hitting back at official allegations of corrupt ties to the family of ex-president Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Kyrgyzstan's provisional president, Roza Otunbayeva, opened the latest round of recriminations with comments broadcast by Radio Azattyk on December 27, accusing Mina Corp of “wrongdoing.” At a news conference December 30, the president went on to allege the company had tried to bribe her 28-year-old son, Atai Sadybakasov, into using his influence to help the Gibraltar-registered company maintain its grip on Manas fuel supplies. Otunbayeva acknowledged that a Mina representative had met with her son in Turkey last July. The meeting, the president added, provided evidence that Mina Corp is "used to 'working' with the sons of presidents,” referring Mina’s alleged connection to Maxim Bakiyev, the former president’s son.
”They lure, put money in their pockets, and think everything's done," Otunbayeva added.
Also on December 30, a day after his return from Moscow, Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev reiterated allegations that the Bakiyevs were “behind Mina Corp.” He promised to “deal” with company and said fuel to the air base should be delivered solely by a Kyrgyz-Russian joint venture.
In a statement issued in response to Otunbayeva’s assertions, Mina Corp said the Kyrgyz president had “demonstrated her unfortunate misunderstanding and utter disinformation.”
In an interview with EurasiaNet on December 20, Dean Peroff, a member of Mina Corp’s legal team, said the company was being abused in a style reminiscent of a “classic” post-Soviet corporate raid.
The company insists it did not have an improper relationship with the Bakiyevs as it “simply did not need any favors from successive Kyrgyz governments.” The Mina Corp statement also denied trying to influence the Kyrgyz administration through the clandestine meeting with Otunbayeva’s son.
According to Mina Corp, Atambayev’s statements constituted “a blatant attempt to pressure the law enforcement agencies and Kyrgyz officials in a manner intended to send a political signal. These statements are outside the law.”
Mina Corp was awarded a $315 million contract by the Defense Logistic Agency in November, 2010, to continue supplying fuel to the Manas air base for at least one more year. However, as of February, the Kyrgyz state owned Manas Refueling Complex, operating in partnership with the Russian energy behemoth Gazprom, assume responsibility for 20 percent Manas’ fuel supplies. By July 2011, the Kyrgyz-Russian partnership’s fuel-supply share is set to rise to 50 percent.
Mina Corp and its affiliate Red Star Enterprises are the subjects of an ongoing Kyrgyz government investigation.
Deirdre Tynan is a Bishkek-based reporter specializing in Central Asian affairs.