Kazakh Newspapers Seized For Alleging Corruption By President’s Son-In-Law

Piping hot: How Putin won China gas deal

Kazakh officials have seized editions of at least five opposition and independent newspapers that contain an article alleging corruption by President Nursultan Nazarbaev’s son-in-law, Timur Kulibaev, who is suing the newspapers, RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service reports.

An Almaty district court ordered the seizure of the newspapers after Kulibaev filed a libel lawsuit against the publications “Respublika,” “Golos Respubliki” (Voice of the Republic), “Vzglyad” (Glance), “Kursiv,” and “Kursiv-News.”

The court also banned any reports “damaging the dignity and honor of Timur Kulibaev.” Kulibaev is an executive in many of Kazakhstan’s energy-sector businesses.

All of the impounded newspapers had printed a statement by former Kazakh businessman Mukhtar Ablyazov, who accused Kulibaev of corruption on several websites last week.

Ablyazov, who left Kazakhstan for London in 2009 after his BTA Bank was taken over by the government, stated that he had sent open letters to Chinese President Hu Jintao, China’s prosecutor-general, and the state security minister urging them to look into the companies involved in an allegedly corrupt deal with Kazakhstan.

Ablyazov claimed in the letter that when the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) agreed several years ago to buy shares of Kazakhstan’s AqtobeMunayGaz oil and gas company, Kulibaev made CNPC create an offshore company.

Ablyazov said that 49 percent of the off-shore company’s shares were sold to Darley Investment Services — which is controlled by Kulibaev — for $49. Ablyazov claims that CNPC and some of its branches then bought the shares back from Darley Investment Services for $165.9 million.


CNPC and Kazakhstan

CNPC’s involvement with oil and gas projects in Kazakhstan also dates back to 1997, when CNPC acquired a 60.3 per cent stake in AktobeMunaiGas, the fourth-largest oil company in Kazakhstan. In May 2003, the company upped this by another 25.12 per cent, taking CNPC’s shareholding in AktobeMunaiGas up to 85.42 per cent. This new holding includes production licenses for the Zhanazhol, Kenkiyak Oversalt and Kenkiyak Subsalt oilfields and a contract for an exploration block.

In October 2005, CNPC acquired PetroKazakhstan. Other acquisitions include 50 per cent holdings in the North Buzachi Oilfield (with the remaining 50 per cent held by Lukoil), and the joint venture Kazakhstan-China Crude Oil Pipeline in which CNPC and partner KazMunaiGaz each own 50 per cent.

Although there are numerous high profile Kazakhstan-located projects in CNPC’s portfolio, the 2003 acquisition deal for AktobeMunaiGas appears to be the one currently revisited by the news media.

Mukhtar Ablyazov, the fugitive banker, former Kazakh former trade, industry, and energy minister and former head of Kazakhstan’s BTA Bank, has claimed that Timur Kulibaev, the son-in-law of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, received huge bribes from Chinese oil companies back in 2003.

Ablyazov says that in 2003, 35 per cent of AqtobeMunaiGa was valued at 350 million; however CNPC managed to acquire the shares for the lesser sum of $150 million. Ablyazov claims that Kulibaev received bribes of $170 million from CNPC as part of this acquisition. Ablyazov, who has been based in London since the BTA Bank was taken over by the government and he fled the country in 2009, made these claims on his official website. The Kazakh Communist Party has demanded an immediate investigation into these claims. The allegations continue.