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Kyrgyzstan official fined after pleading guilty in high-profile corruption trial

Kyrgyzstan official fined after pleading guilty in high-profile corruption trial

13.02.2021 | Fred Porter | U. Pittsburgh School of Law, US FEBRUARY 12, 2021 02:59:21 PM | 590

A Kyrgyz court in Bishkek fined former Deputy Head of State Customs Service Raimbek Matraimov 260,000 soms, or roughly USD $3000, in a closed trial Thursday. Matraimov pleaded guilty during his trial at the Pervomaisky District Court, which was closed to journalists, for his participation in a customs corruption scheme that resulted in the laundering of more than $700 million during his time in office.

Matraimov had come under scrutiny in 2020 for a customs scheme whereby he allowed customs officials to clear high-value foreign goods as low-value goods in exchange for bribes from the foreign companies involved. Products that came from favored companies would be expedited through Kyrgyz customs processing, while products from other companies would be thoroughly inspected in a weekslong process. Matraimov additionally used his position to smuggle cash through Kyrgyz airports.

For these reasons, the US Department of the Treasury sanctioned Matraimov in December under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, which penalizes foreign actors who engage in the misappropriation of state assets as well as corruption related to the misappropriation of state assets. This followed the Kyrgyz government opening a criminal investigation into Matraimov in October and placing him under house arrest while imposing sanctions on his finances.

Matraimov’s sentence means that, while he must pay the fine and is expected to repay the Kyrgyz treasury for the damages his corruption incurred, he will no longer be subject to travel restrictions, and his Kyrgyz bank accounts will be unfrozen. Kyrgyz social media reacted to the verdict with incredulity, with many finding it to be too light a sentence for the extent of Matraimov’s offenses.

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