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World

US slams Kyrgyzstan court for freeing 'crime boss'

  • The US embassy said it was "deeply concerned" by the release of Kolbayev, describing him as a "transnational organized crime boss".
Published March 3, 2021
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BISHKEK: The United States said Wednesday it was "deeply concerned" after a court in Kyrgyzstan released a man who is under US sanctions over ties to the international heroin trade.

Kamchibek Kolbayev is often cited by media in the mountainous ex-Soviet country as being a powerful underworld "authority" and an influential force in Kyrgyzstan's turbulent politics.

Washington applauded Kolbayev's arrest on criminal conspiracy charges in October after a new government came to power, but criticised the court decision to release him after authorities admitted he was no longer in jail.

The US embassy said it was "deeply concerned" by the release of Kolbayev, describing him as a "transnational organized crime boss".

"Kolbaev's drug trafficking network poisons children across Central Asia, Russia, and Europe, which is why the US Department of State has offered a reward of up to $1 million for information leading to the disruption of his criminal network," the statement quoted US Ambassador Donald Lu as saying.

Kyrgyzstan's State National Security Committee (SCNS) said Wednesday that Kolbayev was released after he agreed to compensate the state over "legalisation of criminal revenue" totalling nearly $3 million.

Kolbayev's relatives had already transferred around 20 percent of the sum to the state, the SCNS said.

It added Kolbayev should complete payment of the damages by the end of April, during which time he would be unable to leave his home town of Cholpon-Ata.

The US Treasury added Kolbayev to its list of individuals under sanctions in 2011.

Last year Washington slapped penalties on two other Kyrgyz nationals -- former customs official Rayimbek Matraimov and his spouse Uulkan Turgunova.

Matraimov, another reputed power-broker, is currently under investigation in Kyrgyzstan for laundering embezzled funds.

Unrest over a disputed parliamentary vote in October saw a Kyrgyz administration ousted from power for the third time in the country's three decades of independence from Moscow, with new leader Sadyr Japarov promising a tougher line on corruption and organised crime.

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US slams Kyrgyzstan court for freeing 'crime boss'

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