On May 20, Kairbek Suleimenov, Kazakhstan’s Interior Minister, has pledged to step up the fight against organized crime and police corruption. (Kazakh TV Xabar [Astana], May 20; Panorama [Almaty], May 22) In the first press conference held by the Ministry for several months, Suleimenov said he wanted to draw attention to recent successes in what, he acknowledged, has otherwise been a rather poor record in capturing criminals.
Most notably, the Ministry announced that it had finally determined the perpetrators of the republic’s most infamous contract killing. Milgram, a construction entrepreneur who built the first diplomatic compounds and numerous palatial houses for Kazakhstan’s new rich, was shot dead in broad daylight in Almaty’s central square in 1993. Suleimenov announced that he personally had interrogated and was now holding an unidentified individual from Russia and two of Milgram’s former employees. The three are awaiting trial in October. The arrests come a week after the detention of Kostya’s Brigade, described by the official government newspaper Kazakhstanskaya pravda as “the most brazen criminal group in the Jambyl region.” (Kazakhstanskaya pravda [Almaty], May 11) Suleimenov admitted that the Brigade had, along with other Jambyl gangs, carried out killings, torture and robberies with the tacit approval, if not the open cooperation, of local law-enforcement authorities.
The establishment’s ties to organized crime, Suleimenov added, are a major reason why it has been so hard to prosecute gangland overlords. He outlined other obstacles confronting his Ministry. Ninety percent of gangsters have no criminal record, he said, making them hard to track down. Investigators are often unable to infiltrate tightly-knit kin-based bandit groups. Moreover, the authorities are hard-pressed to keep track of the movements of Kazakhstan’s growing number of refugees and illegal immigrants. Suleimenov said he understood the public’s disillusion with the law-enforcement agencies. A first practical step to restore public confidence would, he said, be to close all roadside police stations. A common ploy is for station officers to extort money from motorists by threatening to confiscate their driving licenses on trumped-up charges.–SC
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