The Rakhat Aliyev files revisited: the story of Kazakhstan’s own Professor Moriarty

The Rakhat Aliyev files revisited: the story of Kazakhstan’s own Professor Moriarty

Should ghosts of the past be forgotten? If England still celebrates Guy Fawkes Day, as a reminder that trying to blow up government and Parliament and murder the state’s mandated representatives, a court in Malta has sent the wrong signal to Kazakhstan Even though Kazakhstan’s variety of Fawkes, or if one wants its own Professor Moriarty after Sherlock Holmes’ anti-hero, hanged himself shortly before his murder trial in Vienna (his two accomplices were to be acquitted in a scandalous travesty of justice little afterwards), there cannot be any excuse to bury the misdeeds he committed, in particular a series of murders including those of two executives of Kazakhstan’s Nurbank, together with the culprit’s remains.

The Rakhat Aliyev files revisited: the story of Kazakhstan’s own Professor Moriarty

by Charles van der Leeuw, writer, news analyst

In a most ambiguous ruling, a court of Malta in appeal ordered the island state’s government to put cooperation with Kazakhstan to a halt concerning posthumous investigations in the wheelings and dealings of “dissident” Rakhat Aliyev who was found hanged in an Austrian prison shortly before standing trial. His new spouse and former business assistant, however, can remain subject of joint investigations by the two states. The ruling, though, remains contradictory regarding the concerned party’s claims to be “politically persecuted” and Kazakhstan’s claims being “politically motivated” – the usual tune chanted by criminals turned “dissidents” in the former USSR.

“A constitutional court has ordered the Maltese authorities to cease exchanging information with their Kazakh counterparts with regard to murdered dissident Rakhat Aliyev, but not with regard to his widow, saying that it could see no reason to violate a judicial cooperation treaty to which both countries were signatories,” a news report posted on October 10 by the island’s local newspaper Malta Today [] was to read. “The court said it was ‘not at all impressed’ by the bizarre testimony of Kazakh lawyer Alpysbay Zhuspov, who had earnestly told the court that the former Soviet republic respected the rule of law and human rights, adjudging his deposition as ‘giving no hope of credibility’. Despite this, however, the court said the accusations made against Shorazova did not appear to be completely baseless. ‘Neither do they have any valid juridical basis,’ said the court, ‘but [the court] does not see why it should prevent another country, signatory to an international convention for reciprocal assistance in criminal justice matters, from continuing its investigations.’ The court said the request had been made legally and for a legitimate reason – as a deterrent to money laundering by criminal organisations.”

“The court said it did not feel it should pass judgment on the state of democracy in Kazakhstan as it was ‘not that relevant to the merits of this case’,” the news report reads further down. “While accepting that the Central Asian state had been censured over its human rights record by nearly all interested international organisations, ‘the fact remained that the request was one for information relating to an investigation which had not been sufficiently proven to be politically motivated. Malta was not being asked to extradite a person, but only to provide assistance as laid out in a convention to which both countries are signatories,’ ruled the judge.”

From extortion, kidnapping and murder to high treason

The 1962-born Aliyev married into the presidential family towards the end of the XXth Century, which allowed him to spearhead into the upper ranks during the first half of the current decade. By 2001, he found himself at the helm of Nurbank, one of Kazakhstan’s top-10 commercial banks, as well as the National Security Council – which he ran with the iron hand remining one of Lavrenty Beria in the good old days.

Then, in 2007, with Aliyev having added the post of deputy first foreign minister to his portfolio, it all started going wrong. The official war declaration came with Aliyev’s public outcry against new legislation which permitted Nazarbayev to have himself re-elected indefinitely. It coincided with the disappearance of two of Nurbank’s top executives, who were later assumed dead. According to the later court verdict that convicted him to 25 years behind bars, Aliyev personally had had a hand in the double murder.

And as if the kidnap-murder affair were not enough, further revelations during investigations publicised by the authorities made everything escalate beyond control. Prosecutors in the course of investigations “upgraded” charges against Aliyev and his associates from extortion, kidnapping and murder to high treason and attempts to overthrow the government by violent means. Aliyev and companions were accused of having smuggled and stored weapons, including poison capsules and poisonous gases with the aim to massacre Kazakhstan’s top leadership.

Psychological warfare

On the eve of his downfall, Aliyev had built up an extremely well-organised group of criminals ready to take action whenever the word would come, the agency was later to reveal. The movement by and large consisted of professionals working in Kazakhstan’s intelligence services. The group was strictly hierarchic: orders were carried out without hesitation and without questioning including extreme action. The trial ended in long-term convictions against 16 of them, five of whom were, and were to remain, on the run. Apart from Rakhat Aliyev, the absentees were his long-time right hand Alnur Musayev and three ethnic Russians by the names of Sergey Manevich, Alexander Krainov and Sergey Zazula.

The most astonishing aspect of the operation was that the group officially existed and stood in the spotlight under the guise of a “Secret Administration for the Protection of the President”. This gave the group virtually unlimited access to even the most classified information. But in reality, the information was used to build up a network of effective blackmail and other forms of pressure on state officials, intimidation of mass media and psychological warfare. Through Nurbank, impressive amounts of cash were available to bribe more “flexible” state officials in order to have them render services.

A ruthless killer and torturer

But the thriller scenario did not end there. Through a network of informers on all levels, discrete information about state officials from policemen to financial accountants was processed and gathered, in order to spread panic among the ranks through anonymous threats. And woe to them who resisted and ended up in the gang’s hands. Musayev in particular has been depicted as a ruthless killer and torturer, and his passion for chemistry. In a secret laboratory, he developed poisons which could not be traced back through autopsy and radioactive isotopes that paralysed nervous functions of the human body one by one. According to the court protocols, he got as far as testing them on human beings.

All this, of course, was not enough to make an eventual coup succeed. There would be fighting, Aliyev and associates realised. A paramilitary officer in the service of the National Security Council was lured into Aliyev’s enterprise by the name of S. I. Torubarov, who was to be among the convicts, admittted that he had been engaged in intensive recruitment campaigns to select fearless combattants with experience in places such as Afghanistan and Chechenya. The regiment of Rambos thus gathered was sent on missions for further training to Iraq and to Egypt, under the guise of training as bodyguards for top state officials in Kazakhstan.

Musayev was eventually jailed in Austria, together with Aliyev and the latter’s bodyguard Vadim      Koshlyak. The latter had carried out the actual murder of the two Nurbank executives, plotted and supervised by Aliyev. Musayev’s role was restricted to helping to get rid of the victims’ bodies by putting them in barrels of chalk. Shortly before the murder trial Aliyev hanged himself in prison, but Koshlyak and Musayev were acquitted by an ill-mannered judge and an ignorant jury. Hardly anyone in Vienna seems to have realised the monstrous dimensions of Musayev’s career. The story resembles what the Germans brought upon themselves in the 1920s by letting Adof Hitler out of jail.

“Visions of hanging or drowning”

The core of the Aliyev’s organisation kept its true face hidden in such an astonishingly perfect manner that “Operation Performance” planned for May 2007 was all but completely ready to take off. On a certain date, it was known that the President and most of his important state ministers would be in different places scattered over the country. This would be the time to act and wipe out all but the entire top leadership of Kazakhstan without the latter being able to convene and take emergency measures. How exactly loyal security forces found out about it at the very last moment is not known. But apparently they did, and the rest of the story is known.

It remains a chilling thought that the same scenario of a horror-regime reminding one of the USSR’s darkest days could have become reality in Kazakhstan into the New Millennium should Rakhat Aliyev have succeeded in his putsch using Beria’s attempt as an example. Both men, in all, appeared to share a twisted mind, cruel to the level of sheer madness – and deprived of conscience. Perhaps the words of Fyodor Dostoyevsky in his Crime and Punishment describe Aliyev’s character appropriately: “And if only fate would have sent him repentance – burning repentance that would have torn his heart and robbed him of sleep, that repentance, the awful agony of which brings visions of hanging or drowning! Oh, he would have been glad of it! Tears and agonies would at least have been life. But he did not repent of his crime…”

There should never be any doubt that in case the existing power structure in place in the country, for all its shortcomings, be forced to make place for a new regime under control of the likes of Rakhat Aliyev and cronies, the nation would be bound to fall under the spiked fists of a clique strongly resembling those of Cuba under Batista, Honduras under Turjillo, Nicaragua under Somoza, Chile under Pinochet – or Africa’s tyrants in most of the aftermath of the Second World War.

“Victims of political persecution”

Looking back in time, in the run-up to his downfall, Rakhat Aliyev’s state within the state already had pretty much in common with the system once cherished by generalissimo Franco: a state apparatus functioning through terror side by side and heavily intertwined with a loyal business clique – together controlling the industry, financial enterprises and using security forces as a means of terror to discourage any competition or socioeconomic mobilisation.

This leaves any refusal by any state claiming to respect socioeconomic rights at home and abroad of that value without the least excuse or justification to help to bring violators of those rights wherever in the world to justice. The fact that these days criminals like Aliyev – and unlike Aliyev still very much alive – claim to be “victims of political persecution” in their countries of origin should not impress anyone with his mind in the right place. Unfortunately, otherwise respected human rights organisations as well as western political lobbies in such cases display themselves as dedicated followers of gangsterism…