Ex-Stepson Talks in Family Feud The Long Arm of Kazakhstan's President

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Part 2: Tapping Kazakhstan's Natural Resources


The run on Kazakhstan's natural resources and markets began shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, and led to considerable jostling among international contenders for Nazarbayev's favor. First and foremost were the Americans, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, former CIA Director George Tenet and former President Bill Clinton. All of them traveled to Astana, hoping to pave the way for mutually beneficial relations. Clinton managed to secure $31.3 million (€23 million) for his foundation from his traveling companion Frank Giustra, a Canadian businessman who acquired the rights from Nazarbayev to buy shares in three uranium mines.

Documents in Aliyev's collection seem to confirm the American balancing act, which makes it possible for politicians in office (in the State Department, for example), to criticize Kazakhstan for its judicial and human rights practices, even as retired Washington politicians continue lobbying Nazarbayev. The lobbyists, senior veterans from the intelligence and military community, are identified in a 2003 report by the consulting firm Global Options Management (GOM).

The Nazarbayev clan hired GOM with the goal of polishing the president's tarnished image. Company officials did not answer questions submitted by SPIEGEL. In 2002, when it was revealed that Switzerland had frozen roughly $80 million (€59 million) in illegal kickbacks from the US oil industry, and when the term "Kazakhgate" was used in Washington to refer to unsavory practices in dealings with Kazakhstan, the GOM strategists came into play. Alexander Mirtchev, the Bulgarian-born co-owner of GOM, is seen as an extremely well-connected door opener in Washington. In reports to the Kazakh president, Mirtchev bragged about his direct contacts at the White House, the Justice Department and the FBI.

Lists of cell phone calls provided Nazarbayev with information about the activities of a Kazakh opposition leader and his assistant, who live in exile in the United States, as well as about investigative journalists like Seymour Hersh, senior US officials and their contacts in Kazakhstan. According to Aliyev, the Kazakhs on the lists promptly received visits from the authorities.

The Nazarbayev regime has already been forced to backpedal on a central issue. In 2007, hoping to secure the goodwill of the Swiss government and the US Justice Department, the Kazakhs officially admitted that many of the millions of dollars frozen in Swiss bank accounts stemmed from US bribes. Nevertheless, says Aliyev, these totals represent only a fraction of the assets the Kazakh president and his inner circle have managed to put aside. During a family dinner several years ago, Nazarbayev already mentioned, as Aliyev puts it, the sum of $15 billion in his personal accounts.

The charges of corruption against the Kazakh ruler are nothing new, but the scope and the evidence Aliyev has presented are. His suitcases of documents include faxes of telegrams from Interpol in the Liechtenstein capital Vaduz to their counterpart in Washington, which mention Nazarbayev and others in connection with suspected money-laundering; checks and money transfers in the millions; and, most of all, the names of companies and trustees that helped establish an intricate network of offshore companies and trust funds. In this manner, as Aliyev claims, Kazakhstan's largest corporations and banks will eventually become the property of his former father-in-law.

After the debacle of Kazakh accounts being frozen in Switzerland, says Aliyev, the bulk of the assets were moved to Asia. There are also apparently entire bags of conventional cash stored in an air-raid shelter at the presidential residence.

Nazarbayev's former son-in-law knows that almost every one of his claims, and all of his documents, could cost him his life. "For each word, for each figure, I have a piece of paper," he says, noting that his attorneys have examined everything. The presidential administration in Astana, after being confronted by SPIEGEL with Aliyev's accusations, still has not commented. But what are the true motivations of the Kazakh president's ousted son-in-law?

A confidential strategy document from October 2007, titled "Project Super-Khan," discusses the preservation of the Kazakh ruling dynasty's power until 2035. To achieve this goal, the document states, it is necessary "to prevent intentional and unintentional, internal and external interference" in the regiment of the ruler of this steppe nation. The remark may be directed at "Public Enemy No. 1," Rakhat Aliyev. Aliyev, for his part, has denied reports that he was seen in London in January with former wife Dariga. Nevertheless, the Kazakh exile community is awash in rumors that Aliyev and the president's oldest daughter are playing a secret double game with the intent of seizing power in the future.

A motive could certainly exist. Sultan Nazarbayev, dubbed the "Sultanchik," was born in Turkey on April 2, 2005. As the president's only son to date, the child qualifies as the primary contender to succeed his father, the president. According to Aliyev, the boy was conceived in a test tube and carried to term by Nazarbayev's mistress Assel Isabayeva, the 1999 Miss Kazakhstan.

Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

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