Former Kazakh ecology minister sentenced to four years

On Oct. 16, an Astana court sentenced former Environmental Defence Minister Nurlan Iskakov to four years in a regular-security prison. Two former deputy ministers were also tried and received conditional sentences.

Madi Asanov

2009-10-21

ASTANA, Kazakhstan — On Oct. 16, Astana's Yesil District Court sentenced former Environment Defence Minister Nurlan Iskakov to four years in a regular-security prison. Two former deputy ministers were also tried and received conditional sentences.

Iskakov was accused of aiding and abetting in the embezzlement of US$7.8 million in budgetary funds earmarked for recycling condensers containing the highly toxic chemical polychlorodiphenyl from the Soviet-era radar station Daryal-U, in the city of Balkhashe in the Karagandin Region.

Three others were also charged in the case, including his deputy Alzhan Braliev, who received a two-year conditional sentence; Zeinulla Sarsembaev, who received a three-year conditional sentence and Adil Zhaiylganov, an official of the Mercury Plus company who received the harshest verdict, six years imprisonment and the confiscation of his property. In addition, the court ordered Mercury Plus to pay the government $5.8 million and a state duty of $173,000. At the very end of the trial, Zhaiylganov publicly admitted that he was the author of an anonymous letter that led to the initiation of the criminal investigation and the arrest of the ecology minister.

The former minister, initially called the organiser of the crime by the Prosecutor General, insisted that he had had no direct participation in government purchases and no say in the flow of funds. During the trial, his role was recast as that of “co-conspirator.”

Radio Azattyk (Freedom) wondered why “during four months of court hearings and expert testimony it never became clear what harm was done to the state” by those charged with embezzlement.

[Azattyq.org, Khabar.kz, KazTAG.kz, InterFax.kz]

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  • The proof of guilt was based on the unconfirmed reports made by witnesses of questionable honesty. For example, Sarsembaev and Smagulov, as well as Raimbekov, defamed the ex-minister thinking this would help them escape responsibility, since the service entry sheets were signed by these persons, and there’s no reliable evidence to support the claim that Iskakov forced them to sign those documents. It seems unlikely that this could be done on the phone, as Smagulov claimed. Why didn’t these people report to the superior bodies or to law enforcement agencies earlier, if Iskakov forced them to break the law? I am fairly confident that Iskakov’s guilt for this charge count has not been proved.

    October 23, 2009 @ 08:10:00AM