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Kazakhstan's former Minister for Environmental Protection Nurlan Iskakov has been arrested on suspicion of overseeing the embezzlement of more than US$70 million.
KAZAKHSTAN—On March 30, Kazakhstan's Economic Crimes and Anti-Corruption Agency, popularly known as the financial police, announced that former Environmental Protection Minister Nurlan Iskakov had been arrested on suspicion that he supervised the embezzlement of more than US$70 million in government funds.
Earlier in March, the minister's two deputies, Alzhan Braliyev and Zeynulla Sarsenbayev, were also arrested on similar charges. Furthermore, sealed indictments on embezzling state funds and abuse of office during government procurements were lodged against Environmental Ministry Department Director Tatyana Savitskaya and head of Mercury Plus Viktor Lays who is currently out of the country. The charges relate to state funds allegedly siphoned off of a project to clean up the Balkhash-9 Soviet-era military installation at the Daryal-U radar station and remove condensers containing highly toxic polychlorinated biphenyl. The contract for the work was awarded to Mercury Plus Ltd, which allegedly benefitted from a lobbying effort mounted by the deputy ministers that may have involved the former minister himself.
Mercury Plus, however, was unable to perform the work because of a conflict between its owners, but government funds for the project were expended nonetheless. According to press reports, cofounders of Mercury Plus Boris Mekler and Viktor Lays both served time in Soviet jails; Mekler for embezzlement and Lays for rape.
Kazakh newspaper Vremy reported that, "In 2006, these same two characters created the Juwenta DB company to build a 150-bed military hospital for Kazakhstan's Defence Ministry, outfitting it with outdated and largely inoperative equipment. The equipment that did work, however, was so expensive that the head of the medical supply department, Colonel Idrisov, was hauled before a military tribunal” to account for expenditures related to the project.
[Inform.kz, Time.kz, FinPol.kz, Vremya]