Kazakhstan’s former sports minister Talgat Yermegiyayev was sentenced to 14 years in prison for taking bribes, while organising a major international expo, local media reported on June 9.
A court in Astana found Yermegiyayev, 47, guilty of embezzling over KZT5.9bn (€15.7mn), while in charge of Astana EXPO 2017, the state company organising the event. The court ordered Yermegiyayev to repay the full amount to Astana EXPO 2017, which he headed from 2013 to 2015. Yermegiyayev was minister of sports and tourism in 2011-12.
The lawsuit represents one of the biggest corruption cases in the oil-rich Central Asian country. Image-obsessed Kazakhstan regularly bids to stage multi-billion-dollar global events such as the EXPO and Olympics as a way to enhance its reputation and project an image of itself as a major player on the international stage. Yet rampant government corruption often invites scandals that defeat the whole point of the exercise. The EXPO is estimating to cost the country $3bn.
Along with Yermegiyayev there were a further 22 defendants, 12 of whom were given various sentences of up to three years in prison. The company officials were accused of embezzling KZT10.2bn. Yermegiyayev maintained his innocence and his lawyers said they would appeal the sentence.
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