Reprinted with permission from ISN.
By John CK Daly for ISN Security Watch
In 1938, prior to selling out the Czechs to Hitler, Chamberlain called the Sudeten crisis “a quarrel in a far-away land between peoples of whom we know nothing.”
History is repeating itself. In Eastern Europe and beyond, a second layer of western myopia predates even Russia’s 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, when those fleeing Tsarist Russia and later Lenin’s and Stalin’s regimes were transmogrified into ‘democrats,’ no matter their previous careers. Leon Trotsky, founder of the Red Army, a man with the blood of millions on his hands, spent time in Britain, as did Stalin, one of the greatest butchers of the 20th century, while Lenin spent the years 1902-1905 in London and made another five visits before 1917.
These twin British traits of ignorance and wishful thinking outlasted the 1991 collapse of the USSR. The latest ‘democratic’ thug from the post-Soviet space to emerge seeking asylum in Britain is Maxim Bakiyev, the avaricious son of ousted Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev.
Appointed head last October of Kyrgyzstan’s Central Agency for Development, Investment and Innovations, Maxim’s blatant thievery led Kyrgyzstan’s provisional government to charge him with embezzlement and abuse of authority.
Three days after southern Kyrgyzstan erupted Bakiyev flew from Latvia to a small British airport mainly used by business jet companies, near Farnborough in Hampshire, on 13 June and immediately applied for asylum, claiming he could not get a fair trial in his home country.
Bakiyev hired the eminent British firm of Carter-Ruck Solicitors to represent him. The firm stated: “Mr. Bakyiev was screened in accordance with normal procedures for port of entry asylum claims, and then granted temporary admission pending the consideration of his claim.”
Two other Kyrgyz exiles from former President Bakiyev’s inner circle – former National Security Service chief Murat Sutalinov and former Prime Minister Igor Chudinov – have also apparently fled to Britain.
On 6 May, Interpol circulated an arrest warrant for Maxim Bakiyev, which had been issued by Bishkek’s Pervomai district court on fraud charges. The Kyrgyz Prosecutor General’s Office charged ‘the prince’ with embezzling $35 million from a $300 million Russian loan and giving the remainder to his financial confidante Evgeny Gurevich, a naturalized US citizen from Kyrgyzstan, to dabble in the stock market.
Gurevich directed Kyrgyzstan’s Asia Universal Bank for 2006-2009, under Bakiyev’s control. AUB remains Kyrgyzstan’s largest commercial bank, handling more than half of the republic’s budget, including salaries of public sector employees, compulsory insurance programs, retirement savings and loans.
On 9 March, the Italian media reported that Judge Aldo Mordzhini in Rome had issued an arrest warrant for Gurevich on charges of embezzling $2.7 billion from Italian telecom companies, money laundering and ties to the Mafia. Only after the story broke did the Bakiyev administration cut its ties with Gurevich and the MGN group.
According to Natsional’nyi bank Kyrgyzstana Acting Chairman Zair Chokoev, during the 7-8 April unrest that culminated in the overthrow of the Bakiyev regime, the AUB sent $200 million out of the country before government officials were able to shut down the bank’s servers. AUB has since been nationalized. Besides Maxim, Carter-Ruck Solicitors are representing Gurevich as well.
Former interim government chief of staff Edil Baisalov said in a statement that “English courts must view Maxim Bakiyev as an international terrorist. He has the money. He has the resources. He has the will. He has the ability to destroy the state of Kyrgyzstan.”
The AUB incident certainly indicates that he has the fiscal wherewithal to foment unrest.
On 13 May, supporters of former president Bakiyev seized control of government buildings in Osh, Jalal-Abad and Batken, with the interim government re-establishing control a day later. Bolstering Bishkek’s claims of the Bakiyev clan fomenting unrest in the country’s volatile southern regions, on 19 May an audio recording was posted anonymously on YouTube with a captions identifying the voices as those of Bakiyev’s son Maxim and his uncle Janybek, former head of Kyrgyzstan’s State Security Service.
The MMS media audio file conversation recording was initially sent to the American University in Central Asia’s Center for Central Asian Studies from a Kyrgyz number registered to an employee of the US Embassy in Kyrgyzstan and then posted on YouTube. The US Embassy has denied any involvement.
The tape purportedly details Maxim Bakiyev and President Bakiyev’s brother, Janysh, who still remains at large in southern Kyrgyzstan, discussing plans to arm groups to spread chaos across the south of Kyrgyzstan in June, seeking 500 “bastards” to foment unrest.
Kyrgyzstan’s State Security Service head Keneshbek Duishebaev asserts that after fleeing the US in early April, where he had gone to attend an investment seminar, Maxim subsequently met with Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan representatives in Dubai while Janysh brokered deals with Afghan Taliban and Tajik fighters, commenting: “The transfer of militants to the south of the republic was made on the eve of the June events from Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province via Tajikistan’s Khorog and Murghab districts. Cooperation in transferring [militants] was made by a former Tajik opposition commander and drug baron, whose contact was Janysh Bakiyev.”
Harper’s Magazine Scott Horton in a recent interview with Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman has also delineated Janysh’s role in distributing firearms in and around Jalal-Abad prior to the disturbances.
Kyrgyz provisional government deputy leader Azimbek Beknazarov observed in a statement: “England never gives up people who arrive on its territory. But since England and the US fight terrorism and the arrangement with the airbase is one of the elements of that fight, then they must give over Maxim Bakiyev” before warning that the interim government would consider shutting the Manas Transit Center airbase used by the US if Britain refused to surrender Bakiyev.
The Manas airbase is a critical link in the ISAF’s coalition forces campaign in Afghanistan. By providing sanctuary to Bakiyev, Britain is not only undercutting its democratic values but putting British and other ISAF troops at risk. The US government certainly understands the stakes, as on 25 June the Senate unanimously approved a resolution calling for a “full and fair” investigation into the ethnic clashes in Kyrgyzstan.
London should accordingly expedite Bakiyev’s asylum request as quickly as possible and then send him home to face justice, an option denied to over 2,000 Kyrgyz killed in the June unrest by the thugs that Bakiyev’s dirty money bought.
Maxim Bakiyev is many things, but a newly-minted Democrat he is not. On 27 June, despite the recent unrest, the provisional government held a constitutional referendum, monitored by hundreds of international observers, which was overwhelmingly supported by voters.
If the West is serious about supporting democratic values in Kyrgyzstan, then it should return Maxim for a “full and fair” investigation as soon as possible rather than let him and his British high-priced legal team obfuscate the issue for months on end, as Kyrgyzstan currently has no extradition treaty with Britain.
Dr John CK Daly is a non-resident Fellow at John Hopkins Central Asia-Caucasus Institute in Washington, DC.