State prosecutor has possible conflict of interest in Matraimov court case
Factcheck.kg has learned that Orozbek Berdibaev, the prosecutor who ran away from journalists in a parking lot near a Bishkek courthouse and hid in a security booth, is the brother of a key customs officer who worked in the southwest customs sector. This sector has been implicated in the smuggling and corruption scandal surrounding Raimbek Matraimov, the former deputy chairman of the State Customs Service. Our editorial board demands that the relevant authorities take the possible conflict of interest seriously.
The day before, on February 11, the Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek considered the case of Matriamov, which was initiated following a series of international investigative news reports. According to journalists from Radio Azattyk – the Kyrgyz service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) – the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) and Kloop.kg. According to these news reports, Matraimov has overseen corruption schemes that have cost the Kyrgyz state upwards to 700 million USD.
During the 20-minute session, Matraimov admitted his guilt and agreed to work with an official investigation. The court declared then declared that he had paid back around 24 million USD (2 billion KGS). After being subjected to a fine of 3000 USD (260 thousand KGS), the former customs official then left the courthouse a free man.
But who is Orozbek Berdibaev, the prosecutor that drew up the stipulations of Matraimov’s agreement with the official investigation?
According to online social network profiles and several sources, Berdibaev’s brother is Almazbek Berdibaev, the former chief inspector of the southwest sector of the State Customs Service. Per the official agreement, Matraimov has committed to testify against the head of this sector.
On the Facebook page of Orozbek, another user with the same surname, Nurgul Berdibaeva, refers to Almazbek as “brother” under a post congratulating the latter on the occasion of his birthday. Nurgul’s profile links to another user with the same surname, Meerim Berdibaeva, who in other posts Almazbek refers to as “sister”.
According to the Central Election Committee (CEC)’s website, both Almazbek and Meerim are connected with Mekenim Kyrgyzstan, a political party closely affiliated with Matraimov through his brother, the politician Iskender. The CEC website also shows that they have the same patronymic “Kulmurzaevichi” (i.e., they all have the same father). Thus, the circle is closed.
Were all this not enough, on the same birthday post, none other than Mirlan Bakirov, chairman of the Mekenim Kygryzstan party, also congratulated Almazbek.
For context, the riots from October 5th-6th were triggered by the results of the parliamentary election, which the CEC subsequently annulled. The results saw Mekenim Kyrgyzstan, alongside the government-affiliated Birimdik party, dominate the Kyrgyz parliament to the exclusion of opposition parties, prompting accusations of manipulation.