Oh, Rakhat

by Joshua Foust on 5/20/2009

Conspiracy-friendly Rakhat Aliyev, former-son-in-law of Kazakh President-4eva Nursultan Nazarbayev who was tried and convicted in absentia whilst living in Austria to more than 20 years in prison for, apparently, questioning Nazarbayev’s holy rule, has done what all disgraced political figures do: he has written a book. And what a book it is:

The first file, with the Soviet star embossed onto its blue leather binding, is apparently the KGB file of Kazakhstan’s current prime minister, Karim Massimov. A photo in the file depicts a young, serious-looking man who, in 1982, sent a letter of application to the Soviet intelligence service. The KGB apparently took him up on his offer, and from then on he worked as an informer against his own people, under the code names “Nurbanu” and “Stager.” The Kazakh public is currently unaware of its prime minister’s unsavory past…

In his 540-page book, Aliyev settles scores with the “the system of his godfather-in-law” Nazarbayev — one that involves the systematic plundering of one of the world’s most resource-rich nations, personal enrichment in the billions and senior Western politicians and PR agents trying to shield the ruler of Astana from international condemnation.

Aliyev’s book, as an eyewitness account of the innermost details of a Central Asian natural resource oligarch’s life, is a rarity — provided his claims prove to be true. Aliyev was part of a system from which he continues to benefit today. “It would be difficult,” he says, without so much as blushing at Vienna’s Hotel Sacher, “for me to spend all my money.”

Ahh, selfless patriotism, how brightly you shine! But seriously, I would LOVE to get my hands on an English version of that book (it would take me ages to slog through the Russian). It could have really outstanding implications in the U.S., as the James Giffen case (which inspired the movie Syriana) continues to grind ever-so-slowly through the U.S. courts. What else interests me is this:

“(Former German Chancellor) Gerhard Schröder was Kazakhstan’s most determined advocate,” says Aliyev. “The United States was more or less against the idea, but the chancellor apparently wanted to come off as the great facilitator in Central Asia.” German interests in Kazakhstan are also likely to have played a role. To date, more than 500 German firms, most notably energy utility RWE, steelmaker Thyssen-Krupp and electronics giant Siemens, have invested about €4 billion ($5.4 billion) in the country.

Gerhard Schröder has been at the heart of several suspicious energy dealings relating to the former Soviet Union—especially the much-touted Nordstream. (It didn’t help Lufthansa get humiliated when Russia managed to nix their Astana cargo hub.)

The story of the rush on Kazakhstan’s energy resources has been told before by insiders, so I’m curious as to what Aliyev will bring to the table aside from an E! sensibility. Either way, it should be really damned interesting to read.

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This post was written by...

– author of 1848 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

Joshua Foust is a Fellow at the American Security Project and the author of Afghanistan Journal: Selections from Registan.net. His research focuses primarily on Central and South Asia. Joshua is a correspondent for The Atlantic and a columnist for PBS Need to Know. Joshua appears regularly on the BBC World News, Aljazeera, and international public radio. Joshua's writing has appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review, Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel, the New York Times, Reuters, and the Christian Science Monitor. Follow him on twitter: @joshuafoust

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