Crossroads Asia

Kyrgyzstan Hunt for Power Plant Corruption Continues

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Crossroads Asia

Kyrgyzstan Hunt for Power Plant Corruption Continues

A second former prime minister was arrested last week in conjunction with the unfolding power plant corruption saga.

Kyrgyzstan Hunt for Power Plant Corruption Continues
Credit: Pixabay

A second former Kyrgyz prime minister was jailed last week as part of the expanding conflagration sparked by the breakdown of the Bishkek Heating and Power Plant in January.

Jantoro Satybaldiev, who served as prime minister under President Almazbek Atambayev from September 2012 to March 2014, was taken to a detention center on June 18. A few days earlier, he had been summoned and questioned by the State Committee for National Security (SCNS, GKNB, or UKMK). According to at the time, he was questioned “as a witness in the criminal case on corruption in the modernization of Bishkek Heating and Power Plant.”

The Bishkek power plant had been modernized by a Chinese company — Tebian Electric Apparatus Stock Co. Ltd. (TBEA) — with work completed the previous fall. The agreements that laid the foundation for the project were initiated in 2013 during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s momentous Central Asia tour. Investigations into the plant’s failure led to deeper questions about the modernization project and the arrangements that led to TBEA’s selection, sans tender.

Satybaldiev, whose government oversaw the initial loan agreement with the Chinese side, joins three other Kyrgyz politicians facing corruption charges stemming from power plant fiasco.

Sapar Isakov, who served as prime minister from August 2017 to April 2018, was Atambayev’s final prime minister and current Kyrgyz President Sooronbai Jeenbekov’s first. Isakov was arrested on June 5.

Kubanychbek Kulmatov, a former mayor of Bishkek and until recently the head of the customs service, was also arrested on June 5.

Osmonbek Artykbaev, energy minister from January 2011 to January 2012 and again from May 2013 to October 2014, was at the time of his arrest on June 5 a member of the Social Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan faction in parliament.

As I wrote in May, the power plant failure during the bitter Kyrgyz winter dovetailed with a spring chill in relations between the former and current Kyrgyz presidents, Atambayev and Jeenbekov.

The arrests underscore an emerging case against the Atambayev administration, though Atambayev himself remains outside the scrum for now. That said, two parliament deputies put forth a bill last month to deprive former presidents of their immunity. If such a measure moves forward, it would mark a critical juncture. As the corruption charges continue to fly hot and fast at former Atambayev administration officials, the question remains how high up the chain Kyrgyz authorities want to go.