State television in Kyrgyzstan has — in another escalation of the ongoing standoff between the country’s previous and current presidents — turned its attention to the former first lady.
A half-hour news report aired on the KTRK television station on July 3 accused Raisa Atambayeva, the wife of Almazbek Atambayev, who served as head of state until November 2017, of involvement in expropriating companies from a group of Chinese investors.
Atambayev is himself facing potential imminent arrest following parliament’s move last month to revoke his immunity status.
KTRK contends that Atambayeva played a crucial role in enabling the seizure of a construction company called BL.S, which was responsible for building the high-end Diamond City residential complex in the northeast of the capital, Bishkek.
According to the narrative laid out by the broadcaster, two Chinese nationals in 2012 bought BL.S from local businessman Rustam Voinov for $5.5 million. It was after this that the company completed the construction of 286 elite apartments at the Diamond City complex.
But then, a court in Bishkek ruled to restore ownership of the company to Voinov, who proceeded with his partner, Rustam Mamatov, to sell the apartments at the below-market value of $400 per square meter, KTRK alleged.
When the Chinese investors petitioned financial authorities to investigate the case, it was they who faced accusations of forging documents.
KTRK’s claim is that Atambayeva used her vicinity to power and bribes to assist Voinov in getting the court ruling to go in his favour.
The allegations are partly based on the testimonies provided to state investigators by Manas Arabayev, a former official who was in charge of the justice reform department under Atambayev. Arabayev was detained by the State Committee for National Security, or GKNB, on June 2.
The KTRK report also notes that earlier this year, President Sooronbai Jeenbekov issued a decree dismissing Elvira Dzharkeyeva as a judge. Dzharkeyeva made the ruling in the BL.S case.
Atambayeva had not as of July 3 commented publicly on the allegations.
While the July 2 report requires further investigation and verification, its airing continues a long-standing custom in Kyrgyzstan of using state television as a vehicle for smearing political opponents. During Atambayev’s six years in power, his administration made similar use of government media resources to smear critics and rivals.
The timing of the report was unlikely coincidental. The same day, Atambayev summoned a public assembly at his Bishkek headquarters in his latest attempt to force the Jeenbekov administration to back away from mooted plans to seek his arrest.
At the end of the rally, which was attended by more than 1,000 people, a resolution was adopted calling for Jeenbekov to dissolve parliament within the coming two months as a way of kick-starting political competitiveness in the country.
Nurjamal Djanibekova is a journalist based in Bishkek.