Has WikiLeaks claimed its first casualty in Turkmenistan? Under the terms of a presidential decree published on the official government website December 21, Turkmenistan is shutting down the London branch of its State Agency for the Management and Use of Hydrocarbon Resources almost three years after it was first opened.Among the agency’s main functions are reviewing investment proposals, issuing licenses for the development of hydrocarbon resources, and sealing contracts with foreign companies for the construction and use of pipelines. In crude terms, this is the gate that any energy company looking for action in Turkmenistan must walk through.The decision to close the London office is explained as an attempt to “strengthen and enhance” the agency, although no actual explanations have been offered. Suggestions that the Turkmen government, which is busily lobbying for foreign investment, has implemented the cull as a cost-cutting measure (as suggested by UPI) seem hard to believe against the backdrop of the astounding profligacy authorities have exercised elsewhere.Indeed, the explanation may be closer to home. One fascinating tidbit offered up by WikiLeaks concerns President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov's son-in-law, Dovlet Atabayev, who has headed the soon-to-be-closed London office of the hydrocarbon agency. Citing sources in the expat business and diplomatic community, the US cable reports on the details of an alleged internal investigation against Atabayev:
“Supposedly, the young man is in trouble for having acquired some nice real estate in the London area.”
The news can either be read at face value, or Atabayev may about to regret whatever it is that he is supposed to have done. In truth, it is hard to believe Atabayev’s fortunes are likely to take too sharp a turn a turn for the worse. Born in 1975, Atabayev’s rise through the ranks of Turkmenistan’s energy sector has been fairly meteoric and appears to have come at the expense of former deputy Prime Minister for Oil and Gas Tachberdy Tagiyev, who was arrested last year on charges of corruption.Atabayev has acted increasingly as the face of Turkmenistan’s energy industry, such as when he announced last year that supplies to Russia would be cut following a pipeline blast that Ashgabat pinned on Gazprom.Conversely, however, the case of Rakhat Aliyev in Kazakhstan shows that sons-in-law are perfectly dispensable, should they stray from the right path.Either way, it appears Atabayev is now unemployed.