BISHKEK — The trial of the former deputy chief of Kyrgyzstan’s Customs Service, Raimbek Matraimov, who was placed on the U.S. Magnitsky sanctions list for his alleged involvement in the illegal funneling of hundreds of millions of dollars abroad, will start on February 3.
The Supreme Court of Kyrgyzstan said on January 27 that the case will be tried in the Bishkek Birinchi Mai district court.
Matraimov was detained on corruption charges in October 2020 and placed under house arrest.
Kyrgyz authorities said at the time that he had agreed to pay about 2 billion soms ($23.5 million) in preliminary damages to the state through an economic-amnesty bill that allows individuals who obtained financial assets through illegal means to avoid prosecution by turning the assets over to the State Treasury. If the court decides not to pursue jail time, it can assess full damages at trial.
In June 2019, an investigation by RFE/RL, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, and Kloop implicated Matraimov in a corruption scheme involving the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars out of Kyrgyzstan by Chinese-born Uyghur businessman Aierken Saimaiti, who was assassinated in Istanbul in November 2019.
In early December 2020, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that it had slapped sanctions on Matraimov for his role in a vast corruption and money-laundering scheme.
The $700 million scheme involved a company controlled by Matraimov bribing officials to skirt around customs fees and regulations, as well as engaging in money laundering, “allowing for maximum profits,” the Treasury Department said.
The sanctions fell under the Magnitsky Act, a piece of legislation passed by the United States in 2012 that penalizes individuals responsible for committing human rights violations or acts of significant corruption.
Last week, a spokesperson for Kyrgyzstan’s state registration service, Damira Azimbaeva, confirmed to RFE/RL that both Matraimov and his wife, Uulkan Turgunova, had changed their surnames.
Earlier reports said that Raimbek Matraimov had changed his last name into Ismailov, and his wife had changed her surname into Sulaimanova, which many considered as a move to evade the U.S.-imposed sanctions.
There have been no official statements from the lawyers of Matraimov’s family to explain the decision to change surnames.