Kazakh ex-uranium boss jailed for corruption
ASTANA: A Kazakh court sentenced a former uranium tycoon to 14 years in jail for theft and corruption on Friday in a case that has alarmed foreign investors working in the former Soviet republic.
One of Kazakhstan’s most prominent business figures, Mukhtar Dzhakishev was arrested last year on accusations of corruption, theft and illegal sales of uranium assets to foreign companies.
The trial was held behind closed doors and involved hearings only into theft and corruption accusations.
“Prosecutors asked for 14 years. The court agreed with this decision,” Dzhakishev’s lawyer Nurlan Beisekeyev told reporters outside the court room. He said Dzhakishev planned to appeal the decision.
Dzhakishev, head of state uranium major Kazatomprom from 1998 until his arrest, has denied the accusations.
“It is obvious that I cannot count on justice in my own country and my fate has already been decided,” he wrote in a letter published this month.
His arrest left Kazatomprom’s foreign partners such as Canada’s UraniumOne worried about the future of their projects. Other investors include France’s Areva and Japanese companies such as Toshiba Corporation.
The case, along with a string of other high-profile arrests in Kazakhstan, the world’s biggest uranium producer, has fuelled speculation of an intensifying power struggle within the political elite.
Observers say Dzhakishev, who transformed the company into the world’s biggest uranium producer during his tenure, fell out of favour after his close ally, former banker Mukhtar Ablyazov, was accused of fraud last year and fled Kazakhstan.
“The trial is political. The judge is voicing a decision that was made elsewhere,” said Serikbai Alibayev, an opposition politican who waited along with dozens of activists and reporters for the decision outside the court.
Kazakhstan’s authorities have said that the case is part of the country’s broader attempts to root out corruption from its key industries and has nothing to do with politics. reuters