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OpenDemocracy: Sources of Almazbek Atambayev’s wealth remain unclear

United Kingdom-based political website openDemocracy published an article  «What we know about alleged elite corruption under former Kyrgyz president Almazbek Atambayev,» in which it analyzed the years of the presidency of the former head of Kyrgyzstan, his personnel appointments, and the alleged corruption deals signed during his rule.

As it reports, until November last year, Almazbek Atambayev was the hugely wealthy president of Kyrgyzstan — although «the sources of that wealth remain unclear.»

Since Atambayev’s term in office ended in November 2017, the ex-president’s name has appeared in connection with cases ranging from the illegal privatization of municipal property to the embezzlement of funds from infrastructure projects. Publications implicating Atambayev and his close associates in corruption and illegal activities have started appearing in Kyrgyzstan’s mainstream media and on social networks.

Almazbek Atambayev, 62, has often publicly boasted about his wealth. In 2016, at a ceremony to receive the credentials of several foreign ambassadors, Atambayev claimed that his political career started when he was already a multi-millionaire. During a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in February 2017, Atambayev boasted (in the third person) that «Atambayev has never stolen! He made his own money! When Atambayev became a multi-millionaire, many of today’s millionaires were only starting their businesses! I was already a dollar multi-millionaire here!»

However, declared income of the ex-president is quite modest. In 2010, he earned $5,944 as prime minister in the interim government. By 2015, according to official records, Atambayev had accumulated $111,205, while Raisa Atambayeva, his wife, had $580,860 to her name.

That said, the Atambayevs’ lavish properties reveal that the former first couple can count on much larger financial resources, which apparently increased significantly during Atambayev’s presidential rule and whose origin remains unknown.

One such property is the three-storey palace in the former president’s compound in Koi Tash, south of Bishkek. Before being elected president, the Atambayevs lived in a nondescript house in a dusty eastern district in the capital.

In March 2018, Atambayev built a 300-square-metre summer villa on the territory of the official (and state-owned) presidential residence in Bishkek.

Now, according to the media outlet, when the former prime minister of the ex-president is in prison and a loyal adviser has been deported, it seems that Atambayev is «on his way out of the country.»

On 22 October, it was announced that Atambayev was flying to Moscow for the 10th General Assembly of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties on 24-27 October, as part of his role as chairman of the Social-Democratic Party of Kyrgyzstan. In the meantime, Almazbek Atambayev has announced that he is travelling to St Petersburg for the funeral of a relative that is, in the opinion of activists, is just a pretext to flee Kyrgyzstan amid the talks about possible prosecution.