Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Congress Investigates Defense Department's "Corrupt Practices" in Kyrgyzstan

At a CESS conference in Michigan, a few years ago, I had a debate of sorts with a US State Department official from Embassy Bishkek, who complained in her presentation about corruption in Kyrgyz education. She had described American anti-corruption efforts to stamp out the selling of grades by professors. I thought the project sounded unwise, and remarked from the audience something to the effect of, "I wish we'd stop this anti-corruption rhetoric, because I bet we are corrupting them." Needless to say, the discussion ended on a sour note. Now, I find out, I may have been more right than I knew at the time, according to Eurasianet's Diedre Tynan'a report on hearings scheduled for Thurday:
Three figures said to be associated with Red Star Enterprises Ltd. and Mina Corp have been subpoenaed by a US congressional committee that is investigating potential improper dealings concerning the Manas Transit Center in Kyrgyzstan. The trio will be expected to answer questions about the companies' business operations and relationships in Kyrgyzstan, as well as the entities' ownership structures.

Chuck Squires, the director of operations for both Red Star and Mina Corp, Erkin Bekbolotov, a Kyrgyz national, and Doug Edelman, an American entrepreneur, were subpoenaed July 1 by Edolphus Towns, a New York Democrat and the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, EurasiaNet.org has learned.

Squires, a former defense attaché at the US Embassy in Bishkek, is due to appear before the committee on July 15. Bekbolotov is scheduled for questioning on July 20 and Edelman on July 22. The testimony will be given in closed committee sessions.

The subpoenas have been formally served to Squires, Bekbolotov and Edelman, as well as to Red Star and Mina Corp's company addresses in Gibraltar, sources close to the investigation insist. A spokesman for Red Star/Mina Corp declined to comment on the development.

Investigators at the Subcommittee for National Security and Foreign Affairs are said to be frustrated by a lack of cooperation from Red Star and Mina Corp since the start of the congressional probe. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].

In letters dated April 12, investigators asked representatives of the two entities to provide information about the companies' structures and their respective relationships to former Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, his son Maxim, and the companies Aalam Services and Manas Aerofuels, both of which are now in the process of being nationalized by the Kyrgyz provisional government.

The congressional probe is focusing on possible corrupt practices surrounding Manas fuel supplies, as well as fuel supply arrangements at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. Representatives of Red Star and Mina Corp, the previous and current holders of US government contracts to supply jet fuel to Manas, deny any wrongdoing in connection with the fulfillment of their contracts.