The Undercurrents of the Astana LRT Case

The high-profile scandal surrounding the Astana LRT project has entered a new stage. And judging by how the events are unfolding, Kazakhstan’s Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary to Russia Imangali Tasmagambetov may also find himself under fire together with Secretary of the Nur-Sultan Maslikhat Zhanat Nurpiisov, former Deputy Governor of Astana Kanat Sultanbekov and other suspects.

Let us remind you that Kanat Sultanbekov used to be (and probably still is) considered Imangali Tasmagambetov’s ally which clearly follows from his professional biography. And, as the information provided by our sources shows, the previous arrest of Kanat Sultanbekov and the guilty verdict that followed was, to a large extent, a result of the efforts of those who wished to push Imangali Tasmagambetov onto political sideways.

To confirm this idea, we will remind you of the «amazing» time coincidence. When, in February 2017, Kanat Sultanbekov was arrested (and not by the police or the Anti-Corruption Agency but by the National Security Committee of the Republic of Kazakhstan), Imangali Tasmagambetov suddenly received and accepted (!!!) the post of Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to Russia. Based on the information provided by the same sources, Tasmagambetov, at the time, played a rather significant role in Saltynbekov’s fate when, instead of spending 10 years in prison, the latter’s term lasted for one year only after which he left the prison colony having paid the record-setting fee of 2.1 bln tenge to the state budget.

And here is another «amazing» time coincidence. In December 2019, Imangali Tasmagambetov turned 63 after which social networks started the talks that he is soon to be pensioned off. Simultaneously, the scandal surrounding Astana PRT is intensifying and Kanat Sultanbekov becomes the main figurant of the related criminal case.

Earlier, we have already covered this subject in detail albeit we did not name the names of the benefactors and allies of the former Deputy Governor of Astana. In our article, we assessed the court’s decision according to which Kanat Sultanbekov was freed as a sensation and presented the reasoning behind our conclusion.

Now, after the lapse of two years, there can be no doubt that this verdict was reached not in the court chambers but in Akorda and was a result of the deal struck between Nursultan Nazarbayev and Imangali Tasmagambetov.

We cannot disclose all the information we have in our possession, first of all, due to the fact that is has not been confirmed by documents and, second, because we do not wish to harm the people that have given it to us. However, we can state with certainty that the deal was mutually beneficial and, judging by the later turn of events, was a part of the preparations for the start of the power transition in the country.

So, it is very likely that the opening of the new criminal case against Kanat Sultanbekov is but another stage of exerting pressure on Imangali Tasmagambetov albeit not for the purpose of pensioning him off but rather for the purpose of forcing him to abandon politics entirely and, when he retires, to abandon the unions with the current opponents of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan as well. 

The thing if that, as a politician and a statesman, Imangali Tasmagambetov differs cardinally from the once omnipotent Aslan Musin who, after leaving the post of the Head of the Presidential Administration and «waiting out» for a year and a half at the position of the Head of the Auditing Committee, was also exiled by Nursultan Nazarbayev to far lands and appointed Kazakhstan’s Ambassador to the Balkan peninsula states. He can be characterized as having noticeable influence among the Kazakh-speaking intelligentsia and enjoying certain respect on the part of the other internal political players.

For this reason, after his resignation, Aslan Musin had practically immediately lost any kind of influence in the state apparatus and the ruling elite especially since Akorda had prefaced it with opening a criminal case against his henchmen, the then Governor of the Atyrau region Bergey Ryskaliyev and his brother, a deputy of the Kazakh Parliament Amanzhan Ryskaliyev.

They were found guilty of being the leaders of an organized criminal group and sentenced to many years in prison. One should mention, however, that, prior to this, they had been given an opportunity to quietly leave the country and successfully settle down in London where they obtained asylum and where they are living happily to this day.

In the case of Imangali Tasmagambetov, using such a scheme is also theoretically possible especially since there are more than enough reasons to advance claims against him and his son-in-law Kenes Rakishev. However, in the current environment, this kind of «raid» on the part of Akorda and «the Library» may lead to the opposite result — the former Ambassador to Russia may become even stronger in the political sense since he will be supported not only by those who has been his allies before but by those who feel opposed to the existing authorities today.

Given the fact that Imangali Tasmagambetov has wealth, influence and reputation, particularly in the western part of Kazakhstan, this may turn out to be a huge problem. By the looks of it, it is for this reason that the Leader of the Nation has decided to fire a warning shot towards Imangali Tasmagambetov. And the opening of the criminal case against Kanat Sultanbekov and other suspects has served as this warning shot. If things get rough, there may be new cases against the current Ambassador to Russia and his nearest and dearest.

In conclusion, we will remark on the standard nature of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s methods he uses to force (convince) the members of the Kazakh ruling elite to act a certain way. And these key methods are:

  • an active involvement of the state apparatus, first of all, the law-enforcement structures,
  • the use of compromising materials previously collected by the related agencies and presented when the time is right,
  • the making of secret deals (the сrooked, illegal and even criminal ones) that are nonetheless sensible, reasonable and effective from the internal policy-making standpoint.

With that, the number of the instances when such deals fell through is minimal. The majority of those who chose not to make them have ended their lives poorly — remember the fates of Altynbek Sarsenbayev, Zamanbek Nurkadilov and Rakhat Aliyev.

We know of only one person who had refused to strike a deal with Nazarbayev (or perhaps was placed in a situation where he could not accept an ultimatum) and continues to fight against the Leader of the Nation. It’s Mukhtar Ablyazov.

By the way, his predecessor in the direct confrontation against the Leader of the Nation, former Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan Akezhan Kazhegeldin seems to have been much more flexible and quick-witted and now, together with the Ryskalyev brothers, he is safely residing in London.


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