Kyrgyzstan's American Lawyers Working To Reopen Bakiyev Case
The government of Kyrgyzstan is working with a Washington, D.C., law firm to reopen the securities fraud case against Maxim Bakiyev, the son of the former president. Kyrgyzstan had made clear its displeasure with the U.S., after the Department of Justice dropped the case without explanation, and the move may have even played a role in the U.S.'s apparent eviction from its air base in Kyrgyzstan. So it's not too surprising that they are continuing to pursue this. But a story about the issue in Buzzfeed contains a number of intriguing details.
One is that the law firm, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld, is working pro bono. Why it is doing so remains unclear, and the Buzzfeed piece implies there is a hidden agenda.
“It’s not a usual path to represent a country pro bono,” McCarthy [the firm's head lawyer on the case] conceded. He named the firm’s “respect for Roza Otunbayeva” as a main motivating factor in taking the job. When asked what Akin Gump was getting out of the deal, McCarthy said “it motivates me and my team personally as well” and that Akin Gump wants to help Kyrgyzstan “stay the course” when it comes to corruption.
Another interesting piece of news the story broke is the apparent reason that the U.S. dropped the charges:
A person working on the deal who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that State Department officials had told Akin Gump representatives that the case was dropped because Eugene Gourevitch, the Bakiyev family’s financial adviser who was the cooperating witness on the case, had recanted his testimony. Gourevitch is currently in an Italian jail facing charges related to a $2.7 billion carousel scheme.
The lead American lawyer on the case drew a direct connection between the Bakiyev case and the Manas eviction, saying that “the cancellation of the lease by the Kyrgyz parliament was triggered because of the dropping of the extradition case." While that may be an exaggeration, it is no doubt that the Bakiyev case has become a serious irritant in U.S.-Kyrgyzstan relations.
UPDATE: This post has been updated and corrected. A previous version, citing the Buzzfeed report, said that the lead Kyrgyzstan official working on the case was former president Roza Otunbayeva; an Akin Gump representative got in touch to clarify that the lead official was in fact Aida Salyanova, the prosecutor general.
Joshua Kucera is the Turkey/Caucasus editor at Eurasianet, and author of The Bug Pit.
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