10 Apr 2019 12:58

Kyrgyz court pronounces indictment against 2 ex-PMs in high-profile corruption case

BISHKEK. April 10 (Interfax) - A court in Bishkek has pronounced an indictment brought against two former Kyrgyz prime ministers, Sapar Isakov and Zhantoro Satybaldiyev, in a high-profile case dealing with corruption during the modernization of the Bishkek Heat and Power Plant, in which they face up to 20 years in prison if found guilty, Isakov's defense lawyer Nurbek Toktakunov said.

"During today's hearing, the prosecution presented the indictment against the two defendants, Sapar Isakov and Zhantoro Satybaldiyev. The declaration of intent corresponds with this completely," Toktatunov said.

If found guilty of the corruption charges brought against them, the former premiers may be imprisoned to up to 20 years, he said.

"The defense has filed several motions with the court, but they were turned down. It was pointed out that all the defendants were sitting in cages. This violates the presumption of innocence principle. The court may apply international norms and constitutional norms. The court should have granted a motion allowing the defendants to take part in the proceedings while not being behind bars. In developed countries, defendants sit together with their lawyers," Toktatunov said.

Speaking about the defense's position, Toktakunov said, "There is a law on ratifying the agreement on the modernization of the Bishkek Heat and Power Plant, and therefore all of their [the defendants'] actions have been certified by the law."

Hence, the prosecution's actions are unlawful, he said.

"The prosecution is challenging this law. But they can't do that, as prosecutors are supposed to oversee the accurate observance of laws. The National Security Committee is also the wrong institution. The Constitutional Court may dispute these inconsistencies, and the parliament can abrogate laws adopted earlier. But the National Security Committee cannot question a law that has been adopted and is valid," Toktakunov said.

Isakov's lawyer, Zamir Zhooshev, told journalists that the defense insisted on conducting an international audit of the Bishkek Heat and Power Plant's modernization.

"The defense disagrees with the prosecutors' conviction that there is no need for conducting an international expert study of the Bishkek Heat and Power Plant's modernization. We say that this is a political case and we will not be able to obtain a reasoned, comprehensive and impartial expert conclusion inside Kyrgyzstan," Zhooshev said.

"In this context, we asked for an international expert study to be conducted, but our motion was declined," he said.

Kyrgyz law enforcement agencies opened a criminal case into possible corruption during the modernization of the Bishkek Heat and Power Plant in January 2018. The investigation is focused on the disbursement of a $386-million loan issued by a Chinese company for modernizing the plant.

In June 2018, police detained several high-ranking officials in the Kyrgyz energy sector, the two former prime ministers, Isakov and Satybaldiyev, and former Energy Minister Osmonbek Artykbayev. They all have been accused of causing material damage worth $111 million in concluding a contract with a Chinese company.

Corruption charges were also brought against former Bishkek Mayor Kubanychbek Kulmatov, who was accused of unlawfully spending funds that had been allocated to the Chinese company TBEA for revamping the Bishkek Heat and Power Plant on a school construction project. Another ex-Bishkek mayor, Albek Ibraimov, is also being prosecuted in two criminal cases, one of them concerning his mayoral activities.

The detained former high-ranking Kyrgyz officials belonged to former President Almazbek Atambayev's entourage.