Askar Akaev, Crime Lord

by Nathan Hamm on 10/30/2006 · 6 comments

Askar Akaev’s got a file at the FBI.

NBC News has discovered that the FBI is investigating former Kyrgyz President Askar Akaev and his family. The report says that the Akaev family ruled over an international crime network including shell corporations in the United States.

The FBI report obtained by NBC News says that “an international law enforcement investigation is underway targeting as many as 175 entities associated with the Akaev organization.” The report cites allegations of a “vast amount of potential criminal activities.” The trail, according to the FBI, even led to the U.S., where the Akaev family was connected to one American “known to have formed over 6,000 U.S. shell companies for organized crime factions, weapons and drug traffickers and cyber criminals.”

Anders Aslund says that the Akaev network managed to amass between half and one billion dollars while in power, and NBC’s report notes that the opening of the US airbase at Manas presented new opportunities for them. As those who followed the negotiations over an appropriate rent price for Manas, Bakiev’s government said that the US should repay millions for fuel that went to companies controlled by relatives of Askar Akaev. And it is this that is the real meat of both the NBC report and the FBI investigation.

The Pentagon says it is helping the Kyrgyz government investigate, by providing U.S. documents.

The Kyrgyz could use the help, because in a strange twist, there were several U.S. connections to both Manas and Aalam. Both firms had bank accounts in the U.S., according to the FBI, and the banks reported that “Manas [owned by Akaev’s son] and Aalam [controlled by Akaev’s son-in-law] are tied to transactions with arms traffickers, Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs) and a myriad of suspicious U.S. shell companies associated with the Akaev Organization.”

The Pentagon has been, in my opinion, quite justified in its position that corruption under Akaev is a Kyrgyz matter for which it cannot be blamed. It is, after all, first and foremost in the security business and not so much in the business of crusading for the elimination of corruption. However, it appears quite possible that the US airbase may not have only been feeding Akaev’s corruption but also harming US and international security.

Bakiev’s complaints regarding the rent for the base and demands for repayment of funds that went to Manas International and Aalam struck me as his own way of seeking kickbacks in his own less subtle and competent way. And, if rumors are correct, a fair portion of the rent in the new deal served as lubricant for forging a new agreement. Since one expects that Bakiev’s motivation for wanting Akaev and his family investigated has less to do with an interest in seeing justice done than it does with burying his opponents, we can hope that the Pentagon and State Department did a bit more work this time around to make sure that the money Bakiev and his pals are skimming off are just funding conspicuous consumption and not the formation of a new international crime network.

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– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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Sean R. Roberts October 31, 2006 at 9:19 am


Thanks for posting this. I hadn’t seen the piece, but I had heard some journalists discussing rumors about this story at a Halloween party on Saturday. Obviously the DOD angle is what the story is in the U.S. I would not let the Defense Dept. off too easy on this–especially concerning the assertion that a tender instructed companies to use one of two fueling companies (both of which were connected to the Akayev family). In most government agencies, that would qualify as corruption…

Nathan October 31, 2006 at 1:43 pm

I see your point, and I do kind of lean that way. On the other hand, I think that this was the cost of doing business and, given that the Pentagon is in the security business and the base was (moreso in the past than now) important to the mission in Afghanistan, this is forgivable and understandable.

I feel quite differently about such hinkiness when it comes from organizations like USAID. I also think there’s far less reason to tolerate it now, so it’s disappointing to have heard from some guys who work with the US embassy in Bishkek that $5 million of the new deal was a payoff to Bakiev.

Brian October 31, 2006 at 10:26 pm

I wonder how Ted Rall will explain this. After all, America totally orchestrated the overthrow of Akaev, right?

Sima November 1, 2006 at 6:40 pm

Well…USAID in Bishkek corrupted as well…..

Nathan November 2, 2006 at 1:30 am

I don’t doubt it. I noticed that USAID and some US NGOs (particularly some of their subcontractors) were fairly tolerant of corruption in Uzbekistan as well. That I am strongly bothered by.

Sima November 4, 2006 at 8:22 pm

I happened to be at one of those NGOs…. some of them stink…. especially those which are runned by US citizens…. yehp! They get good money and do everything possible to estend their stay in Central Asia, Bishkek for instance

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