NB: Update, July 18: EurasiaNet.org reports that a source says Economics Minister Temir Sariev’s allegations are “way off” and characterizes him as a “populist” with an unclear agenda. When asked about Sariev’s allegations on Thursday, the US Department of Justice refused comment.
WASHINGTON, July 17 (RIA Novosti) – He has been called “reviled,” Kyrgyzstan’s “most hated son,” and – with a hint of bitter sarcasm – a “prince,” in part because of the jaw-dropping magnitude of the crimes he’s been accused of, and partly because of what some of his former countrymen reportedly see as an uncanny ability to live freely just outside the clutches of prosecutors.
Now a story from Kommersant daily says the United States has frozen the American bank accounts – worth $74.4 million – of Maxim Bakiyev, who fled to the United Kingdom when his father, former Kyrgyzstan President Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was overthrown in a violent ouster in 2010.
Kyrgyzstan Economics Minister Temir Sariev told Kommersant that Maxim Bakiyev’s three frozen US accounts contain $60 million, $9 million and $ 5.4 million.
Bakiyev received the money from stocks and as income from Kyrgyz commercial banks. The Kyrgyz authorities hope that banks in other countries that have funds held by Bakiyev that they say were illegally taken out of Kyrgyzstan will make the same decision, Kommersant reported.
US officials have not confirmed the report, and it’s not clear why Bakiyev’s American accounts may have been frozen.
The US Treasury Department would not comment on the case when RIA Novosti asked about it on Wednesday. Calls to the State Department, Department of Justice (DOJ), the Securities and Exchange Commission and the US Attorney’s office of New York were not returned.
Last year the DOJ moved to extradite Bakiyev to the United States on charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and obstruction of justice. Reports at the time indicated that the charges were based on three allegedly illegal trades involving "American public companies, whose securities are traded on national stock exchanges,” according to news website EurasiaNet.org.
Those efforts were suddenly halted in May, just days before a scheduled extradition hearing in London.
“We don't understand this decision. In conversations with the Americans we have not received a clear answer. They said that they do not have sufficient evidence. However, they refrained from further clarification. We have no doubt that he robbed the country,” Kadyr Toktogulov, a spokesman for Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev, told EurasiaNet.org at the time.
Maxim Bakiyev was able to use his father’s powerful position to lure highly profitable but questionable business deals for his own benefit, according to media reports.
A Bishkek court found him guilty in absentia of embezzling over $100 million from the Kyrgyzstan government, and sentenced Bakiyev to 25 years in prison.
Last week Kyrgyzstan requested information from the US about accounts owned by Maxim Bakiyev, Kommersant reported. It also reported that US law firm Akin Gump would assist Kyrgyz officials in their efforts to recover assets taken out of the country.
“Akin Gump has agreed to assist the government of Kyrgyzstan on a pro bono basis to help it identify potential claims to recover stolen government assets,” said Benjamin Harris, Akin Gump director of communications, in a statement to RIA Novosti on Wednesday.
He did not, however, confirm Akin Gump’s direct involvement in the Bakiyev case.