Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 142

Addressing an extraordinary meeting of Kazakhstan’s National Security Council (KNB) in Astana on July 10, President Nursultan Nazarbaev declared that state corruption is now a major threat to national security. He criticized law enforcement agencies for failing to wage the fight against corruption as he had prescribed in January. (See the Monitor, January 14)

It was left to the chief of the KNB, Alnur Musaev, to provide the meeting with details of state corruption. His council, he reported, is reviewing 300 such cases, 201 of which involve security officers and twenty-five of which involve criminal proceedings against regional and district heads. Musaev said that the state was losing huge sums of money through officials’ embezzling funds earmarked for social or other projects, many of them involving foreign investment. For example, US$4 million disappeared without trace when Mikhail Bazhenov, former head of Kazakhstan’s biggest mining complex, absconded in December 1997. (Itar-Tass, May 21) Bribery is another major source of corruption: Here Musaev was particularly critical of courts and police officers. (Panorama [Almaty], July 17)

In recent months, Kazakhstan has gained a “Law on Corruption” and a KNB with enforced powers. Doubts nonetheless remain whether Nazarbaev’s renewed campaign will, as he contends, really mark “a new phase.” The corruption issue is bound to prove politically attractive in the run-up to the 2000 presidential election. And the July 10 meeting confirmed the perennial usefulness of an anticorruption campaign for getting rid of a series of officials. The president closed the meeting by stating that every official accused at the meeting–which included ministers and several local leaders–would be dismissed in anticipation of a definitive court ruling. But, as Musaev mentioned and Kazakhstan’s short history attests, dismissal does not necessarily mean a spell in the political wilderness: In the past, several individuals who were removed for corruption have returned–many of them to higher-ranking posts. — SC

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