Judging by the latest events related to Aktobe Neftepererabotka LLP and its co-founder and director Amlaz Kuzhagaliyev, the former political heavy-weight Imangaly Tasmagambetov has left Kazakhstan’s political foreground for good. We will explain why this is so to those who have not been following the story.
On January 25, 2020 Atyrau newspaper Ak Zhayyk published yet another interview with Aktobe Nefrepererabotka LLP’s co-founder and Logistics and Marketing Director Almaz Kuzhagaliyev who was sentenced to 19 years in prison in 2018 and currently remains behind bars. By the looks of it, Ak Zhayyk is the only Kazakh media that dares to give him the floor which, undoubtedly, does credit to the newspaper.
The interview was published under the title «Almaz Kuzhagaliyev: «I will continue to fight for my honor». We are not going to comment on that, not only because the man is fighting for his freedom but due to the fact that this case has a second and even a third layer about which he is going to keep silent for obvious reasons.
Those who wish to learn more about this story, may turn to our previous publications: The Mustery of the Case againt Tasmagambertov, Who Is Behind Kuzhagaliyev’s Case?, The Trail Leads to Tasmagambetov, Two Birds with One Stone, A Quiet Repartition.
Therefore, we are only going to quote several paragraphs from the interview that we believe to be of interest. The thing is that they confirm the idea that the business-conflicts in Kazakhstan are often tightly connected to the internal political frictions. With that, the former often serve as a cause of the latter and vise versa. In any case, politics and business often cross paths through the people that are involved in them. Such is Kazakhstan’s common practice employed on both the nationwide and the local levels.
This is what the man whose severe punishment has been unexpectedly overturned by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Kazakhstan and sent back to be revised (which has obviously been a huge sensation) said (text in bold by kz.exspert).
«You often call the verdict of the Aktobe Court absurd. Why do you think the investigators were so sure that the court was not going to examine the case on its merits?
— The policy of anything goes had played a dirty trick on investigators Latypov and Ertaylakov; in their experience, prosecutors and courts usually obediently process the case and, when they have to choose between their reputation and twenty years in a maximum security prison, the accused rarely refuse to settle. So, the investigators did not really bother themselves with either the veracity of the evidence or the testimonies of the witnesses, or the veracity of the expert findings. For some reason, the prosecutor and justices in Aktobe could not raise any objection to the investigators. But the country has started to change. The President’s aim is to reform the law-enforcement and the judicial system. The Supreme Court has overturned the preposterous verdict. The verdict includes a lot of nonsensical points, the bill of indictment does too».
«Do we take it that the aforementioned investigators were executing a criminous order?
— Not exactly. There can be no doubt that the order was given at a rather high level because of three following traits. First, without it, there would have been no online comments at the Astana central communications service on December 7, 2016. Second, there is the structure of the interdepartmental investigative team that included dozens of officers from all the country’s regions (from Uralsk to Petropavlovsk). Third, before the first interrogation, I was told to my face that the case was «under control», and I thought they were telling the truth. However, it is unlikely that the order itself was unlawful. Rather, it was based on inadequate information provided by the mid-level NSC officers to whom the disinformation was skillfully leaked by the case «organizer» of the regional level. During the first months, many officers sincerely believed that they were sent to Aktobe to fight organized crime. However, as early as April 2017, their attitude towards me and the case started to change — they started to try and leave the investigative team. Those who didn’t manage to do so did everything they could to keep the traces of the liquid and handwriting samples falsification in the documents so that the falsification could be noticed with the naked eye. The Aktobe Court did not notice it, but the Supreme Court did. By the looks of it, only three officers knew from the beginning how the «case» got started. After the «first completion» of the investigation, in the fall of 2017, my «personal» investigator was awarded the epaulets of a colonel even though the case did not reach the court that year and, in December 2019, the Supreme Court overturned the guilty verdict following the numerous violations, the non-compliance of the verdict with the principles of relevance, legality and veracity.
— In other words, you exclude the possibility of the active involvement of the top NSC officials?
— Of course, this is just conjecture but, prior to the Supreme Court’s decision, I was inclined to believe that, in this instance, the top NSC officials were let down by the «colonels» that were executing someone’s order. Had the order to trump up the case against us initially been issued by the top of the NSC, we would not have seen certain important things. 1) The fourth year of the trial would not have happened, and the final verdict would have been reached within the space of six months, in other words, between the spring and the fall 2017. 2) There would have been no open fighting within the investigative team, and we would not have seen the traces of the crimes committed by certain investigators. 3) I would not have been given the opportunity to speak, particularly, on the media.
However, the lawlessness and the anything-goes policy employed in the previous cases, let the investigators down and they, in their turn, let down their superiors. One of the investigators had simply gone into hysterics when I advised him to study the Kazakh law or to read a physics textbook: «We are going to turn you into criminals. You will not be able to prove anything», said he. His other colleague used to keep the prosecutor who was overseeing him in the lobby alongside with me, the suspect».
In our opinion, the fact that the verdict has been overturned and sent to be revised by the court and that, consequently, the accused has rather good chances to be freed, is the result of not only the sight recovery on the part of the Supreme Court (that suddenly noticed the facts and the circumstances unnoticed by the judges of the lower echelon) but the serious changes in the Kazakh domestic policy. Among other things, we are talking about the dismissal of Imangali Tasmagambetov from the post of the Ambassador Extraordinaire and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Kazakhstan to Russia.
According to our insiders, Imangali Tasmagambetov’s nephew Ilyas Tasmagambetov (Almaz Kuzhagaliyev’s business-partner, the CEO and the co-founder of Aktobe Neftepererabotka LLP) was the initial commissioner of Almaz Kuzhagaliyev’s persecution. Note that, in 2016, when the criminal case against Kuzhagaliyev was «cooking up», Imangali Tasmagambetov was serving as a Vice Prime Minister of the Republic of Kazakhstan and, therefore, carried quite a lot of weight in Akorda.
However, the story turned out to be too high-profile and noticeable. Apart from that, other people and clans started to interfere. As a result, Ilyas Tasmagambetov’s attempt to take away Almaz Kuzhagaliyev’s share in Aktobe Neftepererabotka LLP (by the way, we have at our disposal a scan of the letter with a suggestion to sell the business when Kuzhagaliyev was already in prison — kz.expert). Then, Nurbol Nazarbayev (the son of Bolat Nazarbayev and the nephew of the First President) got involved in the matter. According to our data, he and his people are now in control of the business.
Bolat Nazarbayev with his son and brother. Photo from Respublika archives
As for Ilyas Tasmagambetov, he is no longer the CEO of Aktobe Neftepererabotka LLP. He left this post in the mid-December of 2019.
Here are some quotes from an inbusiness.kz article titled «A New CEO Has Been Appointed in Aktobe Neftepererabotka LLP».
«Following the decision of Aktobe Neftepererabotka LLP’s participants, Serik Erasyl Daurenuly has been appointed the CEO of the company. He will perform his duties starting from December 13. Inbusiness.kz has been informed about this by the press-service of the company. Prior to the appointment, Mr. Serik had been employed by KMG International (Rompetrol), an affiliated structure of KazMunaiGas JSC NC. In Aktobe Neftepererabotka LLP, he has replaced Alexander Kim as follows from the data of Kazakhstan Stock Exchange where the company is listed.
Aktobe Neftepererabotka LLP is a refining complex whose sphere of operations also includes oil products sale. The first crude oil intake was conducted in March 2011 and, in April of that same year, the first lot of oil products was sold. The plant is involved in production of the high-octane gasoline motor fuel, the diesel, marine and heating gas oil and the fuel oil as well. The installed capacity of the first stage of the refinery constitutes 150 thousand ton of oil per year. In 2014, the building and assembly works related to the introduction of the second stage of the refinery with the installed capacity of 150 thousand ton of raw material per year were completed. The plant has refined over 600 ton of oil since its opining. The company staff consists of about 170 employees».
Moreover, according to the insiders, Ilyas Tasmagambetov has recently been offered to sell his share in Aktobe Neftepererabotka LLP. He has been offered 1.7 $ mln for his 17,5% participation interest. And since Nurbol Nazarbayev (or his affiliated structure) is going to be the buyer, Imangali Tasmagambetov’s nephew has little chance to keep footing. Especially since, as we have been informed, 58% of the participation interest that had previously belonged to the Kuzhagaliyev family, is already in the hands of Nursultan Nazarbayev’s nephew.
In our opinion, all this would not have been possible had Imangali Tasmagambetov retained his weight in Akorda. This is why we believe that the expiration date for the «Nazarbayev product» has already passed and he has left Kazakhstan’s political foreground for good. In the same fashion as dozens of other Nursultan Nazarbayev’s allies have done including Aslan Musin and Nurtay Abykayev.
In conclusion, we would like to add that, if one is to believe the vicious rumors, before Tasmagambetov left the post of the Ambassador (and, by the way, got the Kazakh Embassy in Moscow in a maximal shipshape), he was seriously «defatted». However, this is a subject for a separate research — the one on the price of the exit from power.