As the lobbying war between the administration of President Nursultan Nazarbayev and his former son-in-law Rakhat Aliyev heats up again in Washington, at home there’s a new twist in the endless tale of Kazakhstan’s Public Enemy Number One.
Aliyev’s now facing murder charges, over four years after two bankers he’s alleged to have slain – Zholdas Timraliyev and Aybar Khasenov – disappeared.
Evidence “irrefutably proving” their murder by Aliyev and his associates has emerged, Prosecutor-General Askhat Daulbayev said on June 15 in remarks quoted by KazTAG.
He said the men had been tortured, suffocated, put in barrels and hidden in the Remizov Gorge outside Almaty, where their bodies were finally found this May.
Daulbayev didn’t explain why it took over four years to locate the bankers' bodies, or why law-enforcers ignored the pleas of their relatives, who pointed to a business dispute with Aliyev as the key to the mystery.
As EurasiaNet.org reported at the time: “Timraliyev's wife, Armangul Kapasheva, alleges that prior to his disappearance, Timraliyev was kidnapped and subjected to violence and intimidation in an attempt to force him to ensure that management of a lucrative business center in Almaty, Kazakhstan's financial capital, passed to the president's son-in-law.”
Investigators now agree this is precisely what happened, but at the time no case was launched against Aliyev, then deputy foreign minister. He was dispatched to Vienna as ambassador in a bid to get the embarrassing case out of the headlines.
In May 2007, three months after the disappearance of the bankers, Aliyev finally fell out of favor. He was accused of crimes including plotting to overthrow Nazarbayev, kidnapping the bankers and fraud and was divorced by the president’s daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva. In 2008 he was tried twice in absentia and given two 20-year prison sentences.
Aliyev denies any criminal activity and positions himself as a wronged democrat, an image the administration and opposition alike in Kazakhstan reject.
Now he’s facing a murder rap, but there’s little chance of him being extradited to face trial. Vienna previously denied his extradition on the grounds that he wouldn’t be guaranteed a fair trial at home. Astana has vowed to seek his extradition again but – given Kazakhstan’s skewed justice system – there’s no reason to believe any European country would grant it. Aliyev’s whereabouts are unknown; he was last reported seeking sanctuary in Malta.