Tajikistan has reportedly embarked on a major would-be battle against graft, detaining at least 17 officials with the government’s top anti-corruption body, including the deputy head of the agency.
The sweep was organized by the anti-corruption agency itself in conjunction with the State Committee for National Security. The detentions began on April 20.
Davlatbek Hairzoda, the No. 2 in the graft-fighting body, was detained on the border with Kyrgyzstan as he sought to flee the country. Among the detained, there is also Jamoliddin Muhamadzoda, the head of inspections department in the anti-corruption agency, and the head of the investigative department, Firuz Holmurodzoda.
One eye-catching target of investigations is Firdavs Niyozbadalov, an investigator and son-in-law of former MP and secretary general of the National Security Council, Amirkul Azimov. Niyozbadalov was deeply involved in the investigation into Zaid Saidov, a loyalist-turned-government opponent jailed in 2013. Saidov is serving a 29-year jail sentence on charges of fraud, corruption, statutory rape and polygamy. Saidov’s lawyers and human rights activists had complained that Niyozbadalov used unlawful methods and resorted to physical intimidation during that investigation.
Azimov denied in remarks to EurasiaNet.org that his son-in-law had been arrested, but he turned down requests to be put in touch with Niyozbadalov directly.
Another anti-corruption agency official, Umed Kamolov, who is also the son of a former general in the security services, Saidanvar Kamolov, is wanted but does not yet appear to have been detained.
All the people detained are facing charges of bribe-taking, forging document and abuse of office.
The head of the anti-corruption agency, Sulaimon Sultonzoda, spoke in parliament on April 26, but he declined to speak about the situation, citing the need to maintain secrecy.
What is particularly striking about this onslaught is that it is leveled at an agency that was until early January headed by Rustam Emomali, who has since become the mayor of the capital, Dushanbe.
There is speculation that more arrests may follow and that this campaign may serve as a pretext to wind down the entire agency, which in any case duplicates the functions of similar departments in the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Interior Ministry.
The Zaid Saidov link here is a intriguing one.
Most people under investigation appear in one way or another to have been involved in that case. And Saidov’s relatives have said that the Poytakht shopping complex in Dushanbe, which used to belong to the jailed businessman, is registered to Amirkul Azimov, the father-in-law of one of the suspects.
This all gives rise to an obvious question: if all the people investigating Saidov on charges of corruption are themselves found to be corrupt, what will it mean for Saidov?