Kyrgyzstan authorities Tuesday 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 $700 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.
The populist politician said that the fight against corruption would “cease to be a tool for eliminating political opponents”, pledging that organized crime “will stop dictating its terms”.
Japarov has angrily denied suggestions he has his own ties to organized crime, amid media allegations during his overnight rise to power during the post-elections crisis.
With a re-run of parliamentary election expected in December and presidential polls by mid-January, Japarov still must work to tighten his grip on the ex-Soviet state.
There has as yet been no indication that key ally Russia recognizes his functions.
Prior to his release he was serving jail time for hostage taking—a conviction related to an incident that took place during a 2013 rally in support of the nationalisation of a key foreign-operated gold mine.