Crossroads Asia

Kumtor Case: Another Former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Detained

Recent Features

Crossroads Asia | Politics | Central Asia

Kumtor Case: Another Former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Detained

With another former prime minister arrested, the Kumtor case grows. Meanwhile, some have been released and others kept in custody.

Kumtor Case: Another Former Kyrgyz Prime Minister Detained
Credit: Pixabay

Another former Kyrgyz prime minister has been detained in relation to the Kyrgyz government’s Kumtor probe. Temir Sariev, who served as prime minister from May 2015 to mid-April 2016, was detained by the State Committee for National Security (SCNS) on August 3 on corruption charges. His initial detention is for 48 hours until a court decides on pretrial custody. 

Sariev is not the first former or current Kyrgyz government official to be arrested in connection with what Bishkek hopes to build as a case of massive, long-running corruption surrounding the Kumtor Gold Mine. His arrest, however, comes a day after the surprise return of former Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev. Akayev was questioned by the SCNS but has not been arrested

In mid-July, two former MPs — Talant Uzakbaev and Almazbek Baatyrbekov — were released from detention to house arrest. Uzakbaev had been detained in early June, as had Baatyrbekov. Later in July, another former MP, Iskhak Pirmatov, was similarly released from detention with instructions not to leave Bishkek. According to’s reporting, all three entered plea bargains to cooperate in the investigation. 

Taiyrbek Sarpashev, a former first deputy prime minister, was detained on June 19 but on July 1 was released.

Omurbek Babanov, a former MP and runner-up in the 2017 presidential election, was also released recently after being arrested in early June and put in pretrial detention for two months. He was released on July 27, reportedly for health reasons with permission to leave the country for treatment. It’s still unclear where he is or what health issue gained him released.

Others saw their pretrial detention periods extended in recent days.

Asylbek Jeenbekov, a former MP and the brother of former President Sooronbay Jeenbekov, and Torobai Zulpukarov, another former MP, were detained in late May and both recently had their pretrial detention period extended to September 30

Daniyar Narymbaev, a former chief of staff for President Almazbek Atambayev, was detained on June 9 and in late July his detention was extended until September 30. His lawyer took to Facebook to decry the decision, writing that a double standard was clearly at play. Narymbaev has been hospitalized for bilateral pneumonia but kept under arrest, while Babanov has been allowed to leave the country to seek treatment. 

Back in late January, former Prime Minister Mukhammedkaly Abylgaziev, who served from April 2018 to June 2020, was arrested on charges of illegal enrichment and corruption in connection with Kumtor. In June he was hospitalized for heart problems after a coronavirus infection and it seems he remains both at the hospital and under arrest.

We’ll know soon whether Sariev will be subjected to the standard two months of pretrial detention, with possible extension after that as had occurred in similar cases. With just the official information, it’s hard to establish a specific pattern for who gets arrested and released and who is kept in custody. There’s no shortage of former officials in the constantly churning Kyrgyz political pool and no shortage of available corruption allegations.