Cash-strapped Kyrgyzstan is gearing up for a legal match it cannot afford to lose, and which, some local observers believe, may be too politically charged to settle.
At the center of the brewing legal showdown is Valeri Belokon, a Latvian banker and entrepreneur, who in England is an emerging philanthropist and a co-owner of the historic Blackpool Football Club. In Kyrgyzstan, however, he is facing a money-laundering charge and is seen as a reputed associate of perhaps the most-hated public figure in the Central Asian country today – Maxim Bakiyev, the son of the former president.
Belokon owns almost 70 percent of Baltic International Bank and has interests in several other businesses in Latvia. He entered the Kyrgyz banking sector back in 2008, when, he has told researchers from Global Witness, an international anti-graft watchdog, he founded Manas Bank.
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Chris Rickleton is a Bishkek-based journalist.