Kazakh amnesty seeks to tempt $12bn out of the shadows

By bne IntelliNews May 14, 2014

Naubet Bisenov in Almaty -


Kazakhstan has set out plans for a amnesty to bring capital and property out of the shadows. Astana says it hopes the 16-month campaign will bring as much as $12bn out of the grey economy.

A draft law on an amnesty programme that will run from September 1 to the end of 2015 has already been drawn up. Money legalised during the campaign will be deposited in special savings accounts at commercial banks, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Bakhyt Sultanov told a news conference on May 13.

Kazakhs will be able to deposit their illicit cash for five years at market interest rates (up to 10.5% for tenge-denominated deposits). Alternatively, they will be able to invest it in government securities, bonds issued by banks and state companies, shares floated as part of the "People's IPO" programme and stocks traded on the Kazakh Stock Exchange. Those wishing to get their hands on hard cash sooner will pay a penalty.

"In future citizens themselves will choose an instrument of legalisation. If a citizen legalising money doesn't want to use available mechanisms of investment, they can dispose [of] their money as they wish," Sultanov said. "If they withdraw this money they will pay a levy worth 10% of money legalised."

Legalised money and property will be exempt from income tax. The draft law rules out the legalisation of property and money received as a result of criminal or corrupt activities. 

Sultanov said he expects to see $10-12bn emerge from the shadows. According to government estimates, the grey economy equates to around 20% of the official economy. Kazakhstan's GDP stood at $221bn in 2013.

That's despite two previous campaigns to legalise shadow capital and undocumented property. The first amnesty in 2001 saw around 3,000 Kazakh citizens legalise a total of $480m in a 20-day campaign. In 2006-2007, $5.3bn ($3bn in money and $2.3bn in property) was declared.

The finance minister also announced that citizens would be able to include money and property legalised during the campaign in Kazakhstan's new income reporting system. That will start for civil servants and public sector workers in 2017, with the rest of the population joining a year later.

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