MAKSIM BAKIYEV

39 years old | Corruption, misappropriation of public funds and abuse of power

 

Born in 1977 in Samara, Russia, Maksim Bakiyev is the youngest son of Kurmanbek Bakiyev, former President of Kyrgyzstan, forced from power in 2010 by a popular revolution. Suspected of corruption and embezzlement of public funds, Maksim Bakiyev was subjected to several investigations, in Kyrgyzstan and the United States. In 2014, a Kyrgyz court sentenced him to life imprisonment in absentia. He has been living in the United Kingdom since 2010, thereby escaping the sentences pronounced against him.

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Tulip Revolution and nepotistic practices

 

In 2005, the electoral victory of Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev’s political party, in power since independence in 1991, was challenged by many opposition forces. Among the protesters, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, a resigning former prime minister, who managed to seize power in March 2005. This fortuitous seizure of power coincided with the creation of a commercial empire by his son Maksim Bakiyev: in four years, the latter becomes one of the richest men in Kyrgyzstan.

 

In 2009, Kurmanbek Bakiyev was re-elected with a score of 76%, immediately disputed by the opposition. The same year, he appointed his son Maksim at the head of a newly created development agency, with the mission of restoring the country’s economy[1]. The "young prince" inherited a key administrative position, effectively giving him access to large public budgets. The President's nepotistic practices quickly raised concerns and sparked public anger.

 

Revolution, leak and investigation

 

In 2010, a new popular revolution forces the President to resign. After having severely repressed the demonstrations, President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was obliged to flee the country with his family. Maksim, who was traveling to the United States at the time of the events, disappeared[2]. Very soon afterward, the interim government issued an arrest warrant against him, but no one seemed to be aware of his location. In May 2010, Maksim Bakiyev was added to the list of criminals wanted by Interpol. He was finally arrested on June 13th in London, over suspicions of corruption linked to contracts providing for the supply of fuel to a US military base in Kyrgyzstan[3]. During their investigations, the Kyrgyz authorities also discovered a very complex international network of criminal activities. This lead Kyrgyzstan to request the extradition of Maksim Bakiyev, who later counterattacked by claiming political asylum in the United Kingdom, describing the Kyrgyz authorities’ accusations as politically motivated. In the lack of an extradition agreement between the two countries, Bakiyev was finally released on bail. The United Kingdom decided to consider his application and authorized him to remain temporarily in the territory pending a decision. [4]

 

 

A complex and organized embezzlement system

 

After the escape of Maksim Bakiyev in 2010, several investigations were opened on his political and business activities, in Kyrgyzstan as well as in the United States. They eventually uncovered a sophisticated system of public funds’ embezzlement, organized by the development agency then headed by the President’s son[5]. The instrument used to implement the operation was nothing less than the largest bank in the country, the Asia Universal Bank (AUB), which was also controlled by Maksim Bakiyev. Small and unknown before 2005, the AUB had grown dramatically during Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s years – a growth described as suspicious by many observers. Several testimonies and pieces of evidence incriminate Maksim Bakiyev and others AUB’s leaders, who were eventually accused of having embezzled $ 170 million out of the country right before the regime’s fall – this represented the equivalent of more than 10% of the country's banking assets at the time[6].

 

Arrest, conviction in absentia and impunity

 

On October 12, 2012, Maksim Bakiyev was arrested following a request for extradition from the United States, who accused him of fraud and obstruction of justice. The charges mainly had to do with the fuel case contracts and Bakiyev’s involvement in a financial fraud system on the New York Stock Exchange[7]. In March 2013, Kyrgyzstan's justice sentenced Maksim Bakiyev in absentia to 25 years in prison for corruption[8]. The United Kingdom's decision on his extradition was expected for the same year, but the United States finally withdrew their request in May 2013, without giving any explanations[9]

 

Maksim Bakiyev therefore continues to live in London in a property worth £ 3.5 million[10], despite the fact one of his accomplices has been condemned in the United States[11], that the judiciary of his country has condemned him to life in prison for corruption and misappropriation of funds in October 2014[12], and continues to demand his extradition, so that he can finally serve his sentence.

 

 

CHRONOLOGY OF THE BAKIYEV CASE

 

2010

·         April 7: fall of Bakiyev’s regime and flight of the family to Belarus, without Maksim.

·         Early May: dissemination of an international arrest warrant against him.

·         June 13: arrival and arrest of Maksim Bakiyev in London.

·         June 15: extradition request by Kyrgyzstan.

2012

·         October 12: US request for extradition, for fraud and obstruction of justice.

·         December 7: postponement of the extradition trial for May 2013

2013

·         End of March: conviction in absentia in Kyrgyzstan to 25 years' imprisonment for corruption and embezzlement.

·         Early May: abandonment of extradition by US authorities

2014

·         End of October: Kyrgyzstan's court sentence in absentia to life imprisonment for new charges of corruption.

 

[1] « With First Son’s New Role, Kyrgyz Government Remains A Family Affair », Bruce Pannier, RFE/RL,  November, 5th 2009.

[2] “Where in the world is Maksim Bakiyev”, Joshua Keating, Foreign Policy, April, 19th 2010

[3] « Kyrgyzstan demands extradition of deposed president’s son », Richard Orange, The Telegraph, May, 11th 2010.

[4] « Kyrgyzstan demands extradition of former leader's son », Luke Harding et Mark Tran, The Guardian, June, 15th 2010.

[5] “Kyrgyzstan: Corruption Crackdown Intensifies in Bishkek”, Deirdre Tynan, Eurasianet, November, 2nd 2010.

[6] “U.S. Ties to Ex-Kyrgyz Regime Are Questioned”, Alan Cullison and Kadyr Toktogulov, The Wall Street Journal, June, 15th 2010.

[7] “Kyrgyzstan’s ‘prince’ Maxim Bakiyev in the dock as US extradition battle begins”, Jerome Taylor, The Independent, December, 7th 2012

[8] « Former Kyrgyz leader’s son sentenced in abstentia for graft », Reuters, March, 27th 2013

[9] “Kyrgyzstan Asks US to Explain Bakiyev Prosecution Dismissal”, Sputnik, May, 15th 2013.

[10] “London property used for money laundering: the curious case of a despot’s son”, Jim Armittage, The Independent, April, 2nd 2015

[11] “Banker Sitting in U.S. Prison Has a Most Incredible Tale to Tell”, Christie Smythe, Bloomberg Business, July, 10th 2016

[12] “Bakiev’s Son Sentenced In Abstentia To Life In Prison”, RFE/RL, October, 22nd 2014