Kyrgyzstan’s Former First Son Living the High Life in UK – Report
The hated younger son of Kyrgyzstan’s former president is living the highlife in the United Kingdom, inhabiting a house bought by an opaque shell company – probably with money stolen from the Kyrgyz people – while he waits for asylum. So alleges transparency watchdog Global Witness in a March 25 report.
Maxim Bakiyev never returned to Kyrgyzstan after his father, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was ousted in a bloody April 2010 uprising that left around 100 people dead. He has since been found guilty at home of stealing millions in government funds and attempted murder, charges he says are politically motivated.
Meanwhile, he has applied for asylum in the UK and is eligible for permanent residency in three months, according to Global Witness.
How Maxim came to live in a $5.2-million mansion, bought by a secret Belize-registered company just after his father’s regime imploded, is the focus on the Global Witness report.
The report provides strong evidence suggesting that the scion of the Bakiyev clan, if not fully identifiable as the owner of the house in a posh London suburb, at least inhabits it.
Kyrgyzstan’s obscurity has allowed Maxim to fly under the radar of the British press for the most part. Even the British football club he was rumored to have a stake in was fairly unfashionable.
Yet in Kyrgyzstan he remains public enemy No. 1 (or No. 2 – special ire is reserved for Uncle Janysh, the former security czar accused of masterminding the April 2010 massacre, who is now believed to be living in Belarus). Maxim has already received at least two life sentences in absentia by courts in his homeland, the one for corruption and the other for the attempted murder of a British businessman over a gold mining deal.
Maxim says all the charges and convictions are politically motivated, while Britain, which has no extradition treaty with the Central Asian state, has refused to entertain Kyrgyzstan’s demands. (Kyrgyzstan’s inability to clean up its justice system has not helped its case.)
Global Witness points to a flurry of suspicious financial activity in Belize in the aftermath of the 2010 revolution. The creation of the Belize-registered company Limium Partners Ltd, which is listed as owning the Surrey mansion, is just a part:
Belize is what is known as a “secrecy jurisdiction”, meaning that it does not disclose even the names of shareholders of companies registered there. As such, Limium is an “anonymous company”, in that it is not clear who its “true” owner is. However, it is clear that:
1) Limium was registered as a company by a Belize company formation agent called International Corporate Services Ltd. (“ICS”).
2) A number of the companies involved in the suspicious transfers that occurred when the Bakiyev regime fell were also registered in Belize at the same address and by the same company service provider as Limium. These companies include Brasfort Limited (“Brasfort”), which allegedly transferred US$30 million out of Kyrgyzstan around the time of the [April 2010] Kyrgyz uprising. According to the Kyrgyz authorities, Bakiyev Jr. and others used numerous offshore shell companies (including Brasfort) to illegally transfer government funds through the country’s then-largest bank, AsiaUniversalBank. The bank’s managers have denied wrongdoing and have accused the new Kyrgyz authorities of illegally misappropriating the bank.
If that is not alone enough to prove a connection between Bakiyev Jr. and the mansion – which includes a library, home cinema and bar – Global Witness did gather one other provocative detail. The organization sent a registered letter with questions to the Surrey address. No one replied, but it was signed for by “Bakiyev.”
Chris Rickleton is a journalist based in Almaty.