Tuesday, July 22, 2008

WSJ Shocked to Report: Corruption in Kazakhstan...

So that's where crack investigative reporter Susan Schmidt went after she left the Washington Post. Here's today's story in the Wall Street Journal:
Washington wants good relations with Mr. Nazarbayev because of his country's strategic location between Russia and China and its mineral riches, which include uranium, copper and iron ore as well as oil. But maintaining cordial ties has been difficult because of the regime's authoritarian rule and poor human-rights record. The new allegations, coming from someone recently so well connected, may make the balancing act even harder.

Mr. Aliyev asserted that Mr. Nazarbayev and his advisers routinely collect money when state industries are privatized and garner commissions from virtually anyone wanting to do large-scale business in the country. "Part of this money came from the United States, some came from other companies and countries," he said.

He said Mr. Nazarbayev has used some of his money to advance the regime's interests in Washington, using crisis-management consultants. Lobbying by foreign governments, of course, isn't necessarily illegal. But Mr. Aliyev produced what he said were consultants' extensive reports to the Nazarbayev family, telling how they had covertly enlisted think tanks and former U.S. officials to improve Mr. Nazarbayev's reputation and influence the bribery probe.

Consultants tracked Mr. Nazarbayev's critics when they were in the U.S., documents in Mr. Aliyev's possession appear to show. One is the text of an email that Mr. Aliyev said a London consulting firm called Krull Corp. (UK) Ltd. provided to the Nazarbayevs.

It described the passage of a Kazakh politician and potential Nazarbayev rival through Customs at New York's JFK airport. The email included the man's flight number, type of visa and U.S. hotel. Federal border-control agents collect such information but keep it in a restricted database.

The original shareholder of Krull UK after its founding in 1996 was Mr. Mirtchev -- the man Mr. Aliyev describes as Mr. Nazarbayev's point man -- according to U.K. records. (Krull isn't related to Kroll, the large consulting and investigative firm that is a unit of Marsh & McLennan Cos.)

Mr. Aliyev also displayed what appeared to be a report analyzing the cellphone records of a Washington lobbyist for the Kazakh political opposition. Mr. Aliyev said that Mr. Mirtchev provided President Nazarbayev with this report. Mr. Nazarbayev "was very much impressed when Mr. Mirtchev brought the copies of mobile and office phone" records, Mr. Aliyev said in the interviews. U.S. law prohibits unauthorized disclosure of phone records.
I looked up Transparency International's perception of corruption rankings (they are not scientific). Afghanistan is at 172, Iraq at 178. Kazakhstan is ranked 150. Not very good, but better than some recent beneficiaries of American regime change...