Kyrgyz PM resigns over corruption scandal

Kyrgyz PM resigns over corruption scandal
Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariyev resigned on April 11.
By bne IntelliNews April 11, 2016

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Temir Sariyev tendered his resignation on April 11 following accusations of corruption in a $100mn road construction project.

Sariyev, who was appointed in April 2015 following the resignation of Joomart Otorbayev over the failure to renegotiate the government’s share in the flagship Kumtor gold mine, is now expected to be replaced by the leader of the Social Democratic Party, Chynybay Tursunbekov, or MP Kanat Isayev, who instigated the probe into the conduct of the tender, the news agency suggests.

Earlier this month, members of Kyrgyzstan’s parliament accused Transport Minister Argynbek Malabayev and Prime Minister Sariyev of corruption over the transport ministry’s decision to hand a licence for the construction of the Balykchy-Korumdu road to the Chinese road construction company Longhai Road and Bridge Corporation at the end of 2015. Parliament called for the resignation of both government officials on April 7.

Sariyev has denied any part in awarding the road construction licence and called for a thorough investigation into the allegations. “There was no involvement of mine in tender procedures, nor could it have been. I am fully open and my work is transparent,” Sariyev wrote on his Facebook page.

He went on to discuss one of his aides, Nurbek Sultanov, who he said should face an impartial investigation into his conduct. “If he is guilty of something, he should answer before the law,” the PM wrote.

Parliament formed an ad-hoc committee that supposedly found Longhai is owned by two Chinese men who visited Kyrgyzstan for the tender under student visas in 2015, the local media reported, citing MP Talant Mamytov.

The company itself was not registered in Kyrgyzstan prior to winning the tender, which should have automatically made the company ineligible for taking part in any Kyrgyz tender, Mamytov said. However, Chinese media in Qingdao and Qingdao’s government website confirm that Longhai Investment Group has been registered in Kyrgyzstan since 2014.

The committee uncovered that the company did not meet many requirements in terms of its background and experience for winning the tender. Moreover, the Kyrgyz representative of Longhai turned out to be an old acquaintance of Transport Minister Malabayev.

That gave rise to suspicions of corruption involving Malabayev, who, in turn, tried to shift responsibility on to Sariyev. The PM could be now trying to pass the buck on to his aide. Kyrgyzstan ranks 123rd out of 168 countries on Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

Longhai Road and Bridge Corporation is part of an association of companies based in China’s city of Qingdao called Longhai Investment Group. When asked by bne IntelliNews about the company’s status in Kyrgyzstan, Longhai Investment Group’s Qingdao-based office denied having any activity in the country and declined to comment further on the issue. 

Chinese news website reported in February that Sariyev had visited Qingdao in January 2015, nine months prior to Longhai winning the tender, when he held the position of the minister of economy, to meet with the Chairman of the Board of Longhai Investment Group Cheng Zuochang.