Kyrgyzstan: Former PM arrested in corruption probe

Sapar Isakov said he is stunned by the court's decision, which he called deeply unfair.

Former Kyrgyzstan prime minister Sapar Isakov has been been taken into custody following yet another round of questioning by the security services.

Pervomaisk district court ruled on June 5 that Isakov should be held pending ongoing investigations into his role in the contentious modernization of a power plant in the capital, Bishkek.

Speaking to reporters after the court’s decision, Isakov appeared stunned.

“This is completely unfair. I have no words,” he said.

The State Committee for National Security, or GKNB, stated its intent to investigate Isakov on May 29. The GKNB maintains that in 2013, while Isakov was in charge of the presidential administration’s foreign liaison department, he conspired to use his position to lobby in the interests of the foreign company that eventually took charge of the power plant project.

“As a result, huge damage was caused to the interests of the state and the people,” the GKNB said in its statement.

Critics of the power plant project contend that the contract was improperly granted to Chinese-owned company TBEA and that the costs of the work were artificially inflated. Isakov has argued that Kyrgyzstan was given no choice on who would get the plant modernization contract as funding for the project was provided by China, which he said made its choice of a contractor a key stipulation for granting the $386 million loan.

Isakov’s lawyer is reportedly outraged his client was arrested and insisted that he was not in any way a flight risk.

“Where would he have escaped to? He has three children, three of them underage, and an elderly mother,” his lawyer, Uchkun Karimov, was quoted as saying by Kaktus Media.

If the authorities are a little cautious, it may be because of the recent embarrassment surrounding the flight of another former top official under investigation.

Prosecutors last month began investigating former deputy prime minister Askarbek Shadiyev on suspicion of embezzlement. In the course of their investigations, they revealed the official had a vast array of personal riches quite out of keeping with his formal role.

But only in recent days has it emerged that Shadiyev brazenly defied a travel ban by slipping across the border into Tajikistan and then hopping over to the United States via Moscow. That case has elicited multiple suggestions that Shadiyev may have had his escape abetted by high-ranking allies and so the GKNB may wish to avoid a repeat occurrence.