The Rakhat Aliyev files: down among the dead men / II

Was indeed a “financial dispute” between Rakhat Aliyev and the two bank executives he murdered with a number of associates the real reason to commit such a hideous crime? Or was the murder a warning to a long list of business people and officials Aliyev was extorting that the same could happen to them if they would not respond to all demands from the criminal group? This is a question that is becoming more and more stringent by the day as proceedings in Vienna keep dragging on against two of the surviving culprits. Proceedings against two more of them appear to keep being stalled, and as the list of obvious suspects, now only listed as witnesses, keeps growing longer, the question arises if this crime was just an incident or part of a much larger scheme carried out over a much longer period of time – possibly even into the present.


The Rakhat Aliyev files: down among the dead men / IIOngoing proceedings concern charges against Rakhat Aliyev’s security chief Vadim Koshlyak and codefendant Alnur Mussayev. Much so far subject to speculation is confirmed within the 99-pages document relating the facts and formulating the charges. Back in Kazakhstan, where Aliyev was sentenced to 40 years in prison and Koshlyak to 20, both in absentia, Mussayev was reputedly acquitted for having cooperated with the Kazakh authorities to solve the murder case and a separate, though obviously related, case concerning the preparation of an armed coup. Charges in Austria concerning the kidnapping and murder of the Nurbank executives, however, have also been brought against two more codefendants, Aidarkhan Bektybayev and Kulan Akimkulov, who are “separately prosecuted” in the charges’ words.

The main difference in position between Koshlyak and Mussayev is that while the former has been deeply involved in both kidnappings and the murder in which the second one ended, Mussayev only came in at the last stage of each criminal act. It should appear, if proceedings duly develop, that Bektybayev, for the moment only listed as a witness, was in fact more deeply involved in the kidnappings and murders than Mussayev – which of course does not declare the latter innocent. The fact that the list of suspected accomplices in the case, as well as increasing evidence piling up that the case now being heard in the courtroom was no isolated event but instead likely part of a long series of crimes and crime attempts by a group which was, and perhaps still is, much larger and much more profoundly structured than so far thought, should send shivers down many a spine.

Among the names listed as witnesses but clearly giving more than enough reason to book them as suspects and accused of deep involvement in the kidnappings and murders is that of Tulegen Imashev, who, while taking the witness stand last week, once more gave his version of the horrors bank directors Zholdan Timraliyev and Aybar Khasenov went through during the days before they were killed. According to a report posted by the non-profit organisation Verein Tagdyr [], which is active in keeping the public eye on the affair open on behalf of the two victims’ widows, Imashev, who together with Aidarkhan Bektybayev and Kulan Akimkulov was tasked with guarding the two prisoners during the day. Aliyev and Koshlyak would appear in the evening to “interrogate” the two executives and put them under torture. From the second day on, the prisoners were hardly communicative any longer. Imashev claims he had instructions to give them tablets regularly while they were tied with cables to radiators without being able to wash or go to the toilet. Imashev claimed that he refrained from administering the tablets. Whether he was present the moment the killings took place remained unclear during the court hearings. Whatever the case, he was to end up in Vienna, employed by Aliyev as embassy secretary. When the latter was finally arrested, he voluntarily reported to the prosecutor and told the entire story to help formulate the charges now on the table.

“In Almaty, Kazakhstan, between 18 and 19 January 2007, Dr. Rakhat Shoraz, formerly Aliyev, and Vadim Koshlyak have, in witting and willing cooperation with separately prosecuted  Aidarkhan Bektaybayev and Kulan Akimkulov as co-perpetrators, have illicitly detained, as under a pretext they led into a sauna and sport complex located 2 Institutskaya ulitsa and held them there for almost 24 hours against their will: Abdilmazhen Gilimov, by leading him into a guestroom within the premises, handcuffed him and prevented him from leaving the room on his own by having him guarded by Vadim Koshlyak and Aidarkhan Bektybayev alternately; [and] Zholdas Timraliyev, with Vadim Koshlyak on the instruction of Dr. Rakhat Shoraz handcuffing him on to a training device in the training room and prevented him from leaving the room on his own by having him guarded by Vadim Koshlyak and Kurman Akimkulov,” the charges’ opening paragraph reads. The name Imashev, strangely enough, fails to appear in this context.

“Dr. Shoraz held a majority ownership position in Nurbank, with its headquarters in Almaty, Kazakhstan, through various enterprises, among others also AO Alma Tur, which was his commercial property,” the charges read elsewhere. “At the end of 2006 and in the beginning of 2007, the later victims Abilmazhen Gilimov, Zholdas Timraliyev and Aybar Khasenov held the respective posts chairman of the board, first deputy chairman of the board and head of the management and trade department within Nurbank. In order to comply with international standards according to which members of the board should be participating in the bank in the form of shareholders, Abilmazhen Gilimov also held shares in Nurbank in his function as chairman of the board. On February 11 2005 12,150 ordinary shares in Nurbank held by TOO Vostok Capital, another 12,150 ordinary shares in Nurbank held by TOO Kompania Krona Ltd. and a further 10,000 ordinary shares in Nurbank held by TOO Central Asia Group were transferred to Abilmazhen Gilimov; on December 30 2005 11,000 ordinary shares were transferred from the share account of Abilmazhen Gilimov to beneficiary AO Alma Tur. On 18/19 January 2007 Abilmazhen Gilimov was in the possession of altogether 23,000 shares in Nurbank with a par value of 10,000 tenge (according to the exchange rate as of January 18/19 2005 59.30 euro) per share. Abilmazhen Gilimov did not pay anything for these shares and held them as a nominee on behalf of Dr. Rakhat Shoraz.”

Initially, it looked as though the affair had been settled. “On the morning of January 22, a board meeting of Nurbank in its premises in the Ken Dala building took place in the presence of Aliyev, Gilimov and Timraliyev,” in the charges’ words. The two latter abandoned their positions and abstained from their interests in the bank. Gilimov was appointed general manager of a new investment fund yet to be established, while Timraliyev’s post was taken over by Aliyev’s son Nurali. The same day, the purchasing contract for the Ken Dala building was signed between seller IHK and buyer Alma Tur, with a purchasing price amounting to 20.55 million euro according to exchange rates at the time, plus 5.17947 million euro for an adjacent piece of land. According to the charges, the market value of the two properties at the time amounted to 87.3253 million euro – meaning that Aliyev had managed to lay his hands on them for well below a third of their value.

On the morning of January 31, Aliyev ordered his assistant at the National Security Council (the name has been blurred in the charges) to come to his home downtown Almaty in his service car, “a blue Toyota Hyaz” – in the charges document’s words. “When [the assistant] arrived at the home of Dr. Rakhat Shoraz, [the latter] ordered him to drive to the Ken Dala building and wait there for a call from Vadim Koshlyak, since ‘something’ needed to be transported. In order to make sure that [the assistant] was the right person to carry out the order, Dr. Rakhat Shoraz asked [him] whether he had some experience in detaining people, which he confirmed. Upon this, [the assistant] drove in the direction of the Ken Dala building and waited in front of the entrance. The order for [the assistant] shows clearly that at this point Dr. Rakhat Shoraz and Vadim Koshlyak were already determined to capture Abdilmazhen Gilimov and Zholdas Timraliyev in case of need and take them to another location.”

The unnamed “assistant”, according to the charges, was meant to participate in guarding the prisoners and forcing them to confess their dealings. Putting things together, it looks very much indeed that this was Imashev. Koshlyak procured three overalls and for lack of handcuffs plastic cable tiers at the premises of the company AlmatyStroySnab for which he was working as a director, the charges relate. Handcuffs were eventually provided by the chief of the private security guard of the Ken Dala building, while black commando head covers were provided to pull over the victims’ heads during transport. “Shortly before 13.00 hrs Aybar Khasenov stepped into the elevator to take him up to the ninth floor (eight floor in European terminology) of the Ken Dala office building,” the charges relate. “[…] When Aybar Khasenov entered the boardrooms on the ninth floor, most of the personnel working there, including the secretaries, the guard and the coffee lady, were on lunch break.”

“Around 15.00 hrs. a board meeting of Nurbank took place in the large conference room on the ninth floor of the Ken Dala office building,” the charges relate further down. “Before that, the secretary was ordered to summon Zholdas Timraliyev to come to the meeting and inform him as soon as she could reach him. Before he went to the office, Zholdas Timraliyev informed Abilzhan Gilimov that he was to drive to the Nurbank, but the latter refused to accompany him.” On arrival, Timraliyev was conducted to a small conference room on the same floor where after a while Aliyev and Koshlyak entered, confronting him in the same way as they had done with Khasenov earlier. “When Zholdas Timraliyev showed himself insufficiently cooperative, Dr. Rakhat Shoraz beat and kicked him, gripped him by the hair and dealt blows and foot kicks to him,” in the charges’ words. Vadim Koshlyak also beat Zholdas Timraliyev, [who] screamed in pain.” After that, they put him in a seat and ordered him to write down his “confession”.

Shortly afterwards, the two prisoners were dressed in the overalls that had been brought in, handcuffed and their heads covered and – apparently unnoticed – put in the personal vehicles of Aliyev and his unnamed assistant which carried them off. First, they drove in the direction of Aliyev’s residence, a sumptuous villa uphill on Tulebayeva Street. From there, after some debate, Aliyev and Koshlyak decided to bring both men to the village of Kholdy where the premises of an enterprise called Agrotex, registered on Aliyev’s father’s name Mukhtar Aliyev, were located. “Once arrived, Abdilmazhen Gilimov and Zholdas Timraliyev [were put] in different rooms in a single-story building on the premises,” the charges relate. “There, the two victims were tied to beds with plastic tape so that they could not leave the space on their own.”

The actual murders took place on February 9, according to the charges, “… by administering paralysing neuroleptics and additional stupefying substances which disabled them to move, upon which they were strangled”. The latter substances included injections with overdoses of sulphiride, diazepham, chlorproxithene and zolpideme, All possible evidence on the site of the murder were burnt on the order of Rakhat Aliyev. The bodies were subsequently brought to a garbage grove on 126b Al-Farabi Avenue, the motorway that separates Almaty from the uphill suburbs on the northern slopes of the Tien Shan mountain range. It was only at that stage that Nurlan Mussayev seems to have entered the crime scene, by taking care of the transportation of the bodies to a site belonging to a company named KazStroyTsentr, the general manager of which was Vadim Koshlyak’s brother Alexei but which was the property of Rakhat Aliyev. “It was known to Dr. Rakhat Shoraz and Vadim Koshlyak that there was only very limited security on this land and the debris disposals on it were regularly covered, so that in winter, when the soil was still frozen, the site represented an ideal place to “dispatch” the bodies of Abdilmazhen Gilimov and Zholdas Timraliyev. In order to make identification of the bodies, should they nonetheless be discovered, impossible, Dr. Rakhat Shoraz, Vadim Koshlyak and Alnur Mussayev decided to strip the bodies of all but their underwear and put the corpses in metal drums filled with dissolved chalk, […] which was used for the sugar production in Dr. Rakhat Shoraz’s enterprise.”

As the hearings proceed, which they might well do over a prolonged time span into the month of July and perhaps even over summer, more names are likely to pop up pointing at a pattern behind the kidnappings and murders of a much larger structure than just a hysteric tycoon abusing his position in high echelons to extort, kidnap and eventually kill whomever stood in his way. Unraveling such a pattern could demonstrate that these criminal act have been committed by a permanently operative criminal organisation in which Rakhat Aliyev and consorts held top positions but of which they were not exclusively in charge. Time for everybody to keep antennas up…