Without warning one evening in November, agents from Kazakhstan’s security services mobbed the parking lot of a shopping center in Almaty to arrest Iskander Yerimbetov on charges of money-laundering. Family members of the 46-year-old entrepreneur have described the operation as a “hostage-taking.”
Three of Yerimbetov’s business associates are also facing similar charges. But a deeper glimpse into the case reveals a murkier story, about how Astana is – according to critics – abusing its justice system to pursue everybody and anybody linked to fugitive opposition figure Mukhtar Ablyazov. Yerimbetov’s close relatives also allege that prison officials have subjected him to abuse.
Yerimbetov is well-known in Kazakhstan’s business circles for making his fortune in investment banking and telecommunications. According to family members, he used his savings and bank loans to purchase cellphone firms in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan that he then sold them on to Russian telecoms companies