Police in Kyrgyzstan have detained the president’s nephew on corruption charges in a measure seemingly intended to persuade the public of the sincerity of the government’s fight against graft.
President Sadyr Japarov’s press service announced on July 6 that 32-year-old Ulan Japarov is being investigated for wrongdoings allegedly committed while working in the notoriously corruption-ridden customs service.
No information was provided on when the detention occurred. Eurasianet requested clarification from the Interior Ministry, but received no information.
RFE/RL’s Kyrgyz service, Radio Azattyk, reported that it was told that the younger Japarov was ordered on July 3 to remain in custody until July 26 pending further police investigations.
The president’s spokesman, Erbol Sultanbayev, said that if found guilty, Ulan Japarov would be held accountable "to the fullest extent of the law."
"President Japarov has personally demanded that all legal measures be taken against suspects. This case once again shows that there is no selectiveness in the fight against corruption," Sultanbayev wrote on Facebook.
Corruption offenses are punishable by a wide spectrum of sentences, anything from fines to 15 years in prison.
Although Japarov has positioned himself as a scourge of corruption, his record has not been entirely consistent. Not least as people caught red-handed have as a matter of policy been allowed to buy their way out of trouble.
Indeed, when Japarov came to power in October 2020, he pledged to help top up the state’s bare coffers by forcing corrupt officials to surrender cash in exchange for avoiding prosecutions. The practice even generated its own word in the Kyrgyz lexicon: kusturizatsiya, derived from the Kyrgyz verb “kusturup” (puke), as in “corrupt officials will be made to puke up cash.”
Japarov said in April that kusturizatsiya has helped generated 10 billion soms (more than $100 million) in revenues. He said these monies have been fed into the state's coffers, but he was nebulous about who exactly had provided the funds.
In May, the head of the security services, or GKNB, an old Japarov ally, Kamchybek Tashiyev, declared that a new chapter had opened in the fight against corruption. The emphasis now would be on intensifying punishments for bribery, he said.
Japarov said at the time that a draft bill was in the works to require subjects of the kusturizatsiya process to provide far larger amounts of compensation than they do at present.
Skeptics will take some convincing, however, and point the case of corrupt former deputy customs chief Rayimbek Matraimov.
Shortly after Japarov rose to power, Matraimov handed himself to the security services in what looked like a highly choreographed scene designed to lend credence to the talk about an imminent war on corruption. Unlike most criminal suspects in Kyrgyzstan, however, Matraimov was spared custodial time.
The GKNB justified this leniency by explaining that Matraimov had expressed readiness to pay the state an amount of 2 billion som ($24.5 million) to compensate for damage caused through his activities to the country’s coffers. Matraimov is said by activists to have been complicit in purloining up to $700 million.
Outrage deepened the following February, when a court in Bishkek found Matraimov guilty after a cursory, 50-minute trial, and fined him just $3,000.
Ayzirek Imanaliyeva is a journalist based in Bishkek.