Kyrgyzstan detains ex-president’s ally after crisis

BISHKEK, KYRGYZSTAN (AFP) – Kyrgyzstan authorities yesterday detained on corruption charges a powerbroker closely allied to former president Sooronbay Jeenbekov, the National Security Committee said, as a new acting leader seeks to consolidate power with an anti-graft drive.

Ex-deputy customs chief Rayimbek Matraimov was regarded as a key financial backer for political parties and presidents, including Jeenbekov.

Jeenbekov stepped down last week in the wake of protests that followed a disputed parliamentary election on October 4, leaving power in the hands of Sadyr Japarov as Prime Minister and Acting President.

The National Security Committee said that Matraimov and other officials were part of “a corruption scheme established to extract shadow income during customs administration”. The scheme had begun in 2016, when Matraimov was still in his post and had resulted in “especially large scale damage” to the state budget, it said in a statement.

Japarov had pledged to bring Matraimov to justice over claims first aired in a media report that he was at the centre of a scheme that funnelled USD700 million out of the impoverished republic.

Matraimov was seen as the main backer of the Mekenim Kyrgyzstan party that dominated the parliamentary vote along with a party called Birimdik that included Jeenbekov’s brother among its ranks.

Japarov, 51, who claimed power less than two weeks after he was sprung from jail by supporters, styled himself as a reformist in a speech on Friday one day after Jeenbekov’s resignation.