Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee (KNB) has charged Tokhtar Tuleshov, a wealthy Kazakh businessman known for his close ties with Russia, with an attempted coup d’etat, the committee told a news conference in Astana on July 11.
Charges brought against Tuleshov, which also include funding a transnational criminal group and setting up and leading an armed gang, are seen as a sign of the intensification of the fight for shrinking business interests in Kazakhstan, which is experiencing the worst crisis since the late 1990s as a double whammy of the low oil price and economic difficulties in its main trading partners take its toll. The trial might have also been caused by the businessman’s ambitions and influence on local politics in South Kazakhstan Region.
Tuleshov was arrested along with other suspects in a special operation in January after the police found firearms and drugs in one of the detainees’ house. In June the KNB accused Tuleshov of devising plans “to create tensions within the country by organising protests and riots” and said he was the brain and funder of land protests that engulfed the country in April and May. Tuleshov is also blamed for a terror attack in the western oil city of Aktobe.
Tuleshov, who owns one of Kazakhstan’s largest breweries, ran the Kazakh office of Russia-based Centre for the Analysis of Terrorist Threats. He also advised the Russian parliament on matters of economic cooperation, religion and non-governmental organizations.
The KNB said Tuleshov had for a long time maintained contact and offered financial support to alleged criminal leaders in Uzbekistan and formed “his own organised crime group with an armed wing” numbering over 90 fighters. The “bandit” wing of his organised crime group carried out “a number of murders, kidnappings and assaults” and their “tortures” were filmed on Tuleshov’s orders, the KNB said.
The committee explained that his “bohemian lifestyle” had led to sizeable debts totalling $200mn to Kazakh commercial banks and criminal leaders. “Precisely in this period Tuleshov had an idea of violent seizure of power in the country,” it said. The seizure of power would have solved his debt problems and would have preserved his economic interests, the KNB claimed.