Kazakhstan’s Office of the Prosecutor General announced yesterday that it has resumed criminal proceedings against former Prime Minister Akezhan Kazhegeldin on charges of tax evasion. The proceedings had been suspended several months ago, at which time Kazhegeldin was seeking to become a candidate in the presidential election, only to be disqualified due to an earlier misdemeanor conviction. Kazhegeldin, who is believed to have amassed considerable wealth while in office, has lived much of the time since 1996 in Western Europe and Russia while also travelling to the United States.
A disgruntled former presidential confederate, Kazhegeldin illustrates–as do, with local variations, former Prime Ministers Pavlo Lazarenko in Ukraine and Abdumalik Abdullajonov in Tajikistan, or former Chairman of Parliament Rasul Guliev in Azerbaijan–an emergent pattern in post-Soviet countries in which the second-most powerful leader grows egregiously wealthy, becomes a liability to the president, is dismissed from office, expatriates himself after having expatriated his wealth, unveils presidential ambitions and mounts a political campaign against the incumbent president.
The decision regarding Kazhegeldin follows a session of the State Commission to Combat Corruption, a body chaired by President Nursultan Nazarbaev, which resolved to target tax evasion as a matter of priority. It also announced the arrest of several medium-level and regional officials on corruption charges. In one well-publicized case, a presidential economic adviser was dismissed and arrested for having approved an allegedly unlawful tax refund to a Western company two years ago (Khabar, April 14; Itar-Tass, April 19, 20, 21).
[Correction: The Monitor reported incorrectly yesterday that a tour of the Middle East by Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov is to start today with a visit to Egypt. In fact, Ivanov will begin his tour today in Israel. ]
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