Kyrgyzstan: Washington Tightens Screws on Crime Boss
In Kyrgyzstan, it’s never quite clear whether the battle against organized crime is genuine or a covert turf war between powerful interest groups.
Whatever the case may be, this week Washington has stepped up its support in the effort to tackle one apparent kingpin. On February 23, the Treasury Department imposed sanctions on one of Kyrgyzstan’s most wanted, alleged narkobaron Kamchybek Kolbayev. President Barack Obama had added him to a list of global drug barons in June, prohibiting US companies and citizens from doing business with him, but the sanctions didn’t kick in until now. Treasury says Kolbayev is a midlevel manager in a international operation known as the “Brothers’ Circle” -- “a multi-ethnic criminal group composed of leaders and senior members of several Eurasian criminal groups largely based in countries of the former Soviet Union but operating in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.”
Kamchybek Kolbayev acts for or on behalf of the Brothers' Circle by serving as the Brothers' Circle "overseer" for its Central Asian activities, including narcotics trafficking. In June 2011, President Obama identified Kolbayev as a significant foreign narcotics trafficker under the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act. Kolbayev is wanted in Kyrgyzstan for organized crimes and crimes involving the use of weapons/explosives, and organized/transnational crime.
Kolbayev has a few names and addresses:
KOLBAYEV, Kamchybek Asanbekovich (a.k.a. KOLBAEV, Kamchibek; a.k.a. KOLBAYEV, Kamchy; a.k.a. KOLBAYEV, Kamchi; a.k.a. KOLBAYEV, Kamchibek; a.k.a. "KAMCHI BISHKEKSKIY"; a.k.a. "KOLYA-BISHKEKSKIY"; a.k.a. "KOLYA-KYRGYZ"), Bahar 1 Sector, C09-T02 Tower, Apartment 3203, Dubai 31672, United Arab Emirates; Volokolamskoye Shosse, House 15/22, Moscow, Russia; DOB 3 Aug 1974; alt. DOB 1 Jan 1973; POB Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan; citizen Kyrgyzstan; Passport A0832532 (Kyrgyzstan) expires 17 Mar 2009 (individual)
In the past year, Kolbayev has been accused of fomenting unrest in Kyrgyzstan’s crime-rife prisons, including last month when thousands of inmates sewed their mouths shut to protest conditions, many reportedly intimidated by gangs.
Kyrgyzstan is awash with Afghan narcotics, which help fuel the country’s criminal industry and lace the country’s fragile politics with violence. Allegations that a former parliamentary speaker, Akmatbek Keldibekov, had contacts with Kolbayev helped lead to his unseating in December. (Keldibekov denied the charges.)
A Treasury spokesperson called the case against Kolbayev “airtight” and said it was based on “information from multiple sources,” not only the Kyrgyz government.
While the sanctions -- which freeze accounts in the United States and penalize financial institutions there for doing business with a target -- don’t extend beyond America’s borders, they will complicate Kolbayev's efforts to do business anywhere, the spokesman told me: “When we designate these guys and put their names and addresses out there, under this kind of spotlight it makes it much more difficult for them to continue their illicit criminal activities.”
Kolbayev was arrested last July in Dubai, suspected of robbing a jewelry store. Despite an Interpol warrant, and Kyrgyz pleas for his extradition, he was later released.
David Trilling is Eurasianet’s managing editor.