Former Kyrgyz President Askar Akayev has begged the nation for pardon due to mistakes in realization of the Kumtor gold mining project, according to Interfax news agency.
He’s made a statement on August 8, 2021.
“My dear fellow citizens, I sincerely beg your pardon for mistakes I made many years ago when I signed an agreement with a Canadian investor on Kumtor. I didn’t control this deal fully and trust my government but now I admit that Canadians got full control over Kumtor; they receive all the benefits with few dividends for Kyrgyzstan. All we have now is a bunch of problems with the environment. To help find a solution I cooperate with investigators and will continue to do so,” he said.
Akayev noted that he agreed to come to Kyrgyzstan even though he was wanted by local authorities and risked his freedom. Right after his arrival, he was an active participant in a series of investigative interviews. He also said that Kyrgyzstan’s gain from the project was expected to be much bigger.
“Unfortunately, we couldn’t make it. From the very first day of the contract with Canadians, we gave in to them even when it harmed the national interests of Kyrgyzstan. For example, in 1992 we granted Cameco remission of taxes and gave them full control over the Kumtor site. As a result, we lost both dividends and tax revenues,” said the ex-president.
According to Akayev, this was a result of wrongdoing by the government, which failed to take Kyrgyzstan’s interests into account. However, he’s been blaming himself as well because he was the final decision-maker. The main mistake was the restructuring of the project, which was approved by the government in 2003, according to him.
New Kyrgyz authorities are trying to investigate the Kumtor deal to punish all who were involved in illegal violation of the country’s interests. On May 31 local law enforcement arrested two Kyrgyzstan parliament deputies Torobai Zulpukarov and Asylbek Jeenbekov (brother of the ex-president Sooronbay Jeenbekov) due to their connection to the Kumtor deal. Both are still in custody.
Also in late May, national security service detained former Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov and two former deputies Iskhak Pirmatov and Talant Uzakbayev. They were also accused of corruption while the Kumtor project was starting.
Askar Akayev, who left the country in 2005 after the revolution, came to Bishkek on August 2. It was his first visit to the country since then. According to officials, he gave his investigative interview and flew back to Moscow.
“Akayev left Bishkek but he can always fly back to Kyrgyzstan if needed or requested by law enforcement officials,” said Bolot Januzakov, a personal assistant of the ex-leader. Akayev was asked to witness on the Kumtor case with no accusation against him, he added.
Currently, two former high-ranked Kyrgyz officials Mukhammedkalyi Abylgaziev and Temir Sariyev are accused of corruption while signing an agreement with Canadian Comeco. Thus, the company allegedly got additional land for geological exploration and gold extraction in violation of the national interest of Kyrgyzstan. According to the Kyrgyz prosecutor general’s office in the period from 1992 to 2019, several top Kyrgyz officials joined illegal schemes with some representatives of Canadians Comeco and Centerra to obtain material advantages with no gain for Kyrgyzstan. The object of criminal interest was Kumtor, which is one of the largest gold mines in Central Asia 60 kilometers from the border with China.