Wednesday, 19 June 2024 06:01

Corruption in Kazselezaschita: how did Kokrekbaev manage to get away with it? Featured

Recently, the former head of Kazselezashchita, Karim Kokrekbaev, was acquitted of repeatedly accepting bribes. However, his deputy, so to speak, right hand, Adilet Akhataev, went to prison. The investigation found that officials received money from contractors for patronage in the construction of dams. In total, two episodes were revealed: in the first, both  were acquitted , but in the second, only Karim Nasbekovich got away unscathed. Prosecutors, not agreeing with this decision, decided to appeal the verdict. What kind of bribe are we talking about and why the ex-head of Kazselezashchita escaped punishment, found out .

The story began back in March 2019, when Bazis Construction LLP won the tender for the construction of engineering and protective structures on the Khorgos River in the Almaty region. The company entered into a contract with the state institution “Kazselezaschita” in the amount of 30 billion tenge.

The description states that BAZIS Construction undertook to build the Chukurbulak mudflow protection dam (Khorgos 1), as well as to carry out construction and installation work of the facility “Bed-forming and protective structures at the sites of the International Center for Cross-Border Cooperation (ICBC) “Khorgos”, Border Trade economic zone (PTZ) “Khorgos-Eastern Gate”, the villages of Baskunchi, Khorgos and the border outpost in the Panfilovsky district.”

The project was considered the largest mudflow protection complex in Kazakhstan. It attracted close public attention from the moment of discussion, because, among other things, it carried international status.

Dubious transactions

After some time, namely on October 26, 2022, Adilet Akhataev, Karim Kokrekbaev’s deputy, enters into an additional agreement with the LLP, the amount of which exceeds the original by almost 10 billion tenge. According to the contract, the customer had to pay for the services within 30 days, and the contractor had to fulfill all obligations.

A month later, the parties change the terms of the deal and renegotiate it. The following paragraph has been added to the document:

“The transaction of the territorial administration of the Treasury for 2022 - 18,713,759,224.63 tenge (eighteen billion) - under subprogram 103 of the 060 budget program “Construction of new facilities and reconstruction of existing facilities” is subject to registration. The volume of development in the amount of 5,276,829,160.63 tenge was redistributed from 2023 to 2022.”

That is, the parties decided to transfer five billion tenge, which should have been used in 2023, to 2022.

“Thus, in 2022, Akhataev was the customer’s representative from a government agency. On the contractor’s side, the work was supervised by the director of the BAZIS Construction branch, Andrey Poplavsky,”
follows from the case materials.

You - for me, I - for you

The investigation established that Akhataev and Kokrekbaev, being officials, used their official powers to control government procurement for concluded transactions. They ensured smooth signing of documents and transfer of funds to the contractor.

“Akhataev and Kokrekbaev resorted to corruption in order to enrich themselves, and thereby damaged the interests of the public service,”
explained in the prosecutors’ indictment. 

As for Poplavsky, he had a trusting relationship with Akhataev and Kokrekbaev. The latter, according to state prosecutors, received bribes from the director of the LLP branch, and in return signed acts and transferred money to the company’s account for work performed.

“In 2022, civil servant Akhataev and the director of the branch of Bazis Construction LLP, having common goals, entered into a criminal agreement to receive and give a bribe in the amount of five percent of the total amount of budget funds intended for the construction of the facility,” the investigation found out.

Here we are talking about those five billion tenge (800,321 US dollars) that were not used for the construction of the facility. The officials intended to appropriate this money. They agreed among themselves: Kokrekbaev would receive three percent of the bribe, and Akhataev would receive two percent.

Finally, day X comes, and Adilet Akhataev invites Andrei Poplavsky to his place to receive a bribe from him.

“On December 26, 2022, at 14:00, in an apartment located in the Medeu district of Almaty, Poplavsky transferred $397,621 to Akhataev. The money was transferred for creating favorable conditions for signing certificates of completed work,” prosecutors specify.

It was then that Antikor employees “slammed” the civil servant. During a search in the apartment, in addition to the money received by Akhataev, another $237,000 was found - this is the share intended for Karim Kokrekbaev.

Taking into account all the circumstances, it becomes clear why the management of Kazselezaschita several times changed the terms of the agreement with Bazis Construction LLP. After all, part of the budget funds intended for the construction of dams was never used.

Interestingly, back in 2019  it was assumed that this work would require from 20 to 30 billion tenge. Then they talked about the need to attract investment. However, investors never showed up. But the cost of the transaction almost doubled.

In the photo, Andrei Poplavsky and former Minister of Emergency Situations Yuri Ilyin, who inspects the construction of protective structures

Read also: Shu, Khorgos, dam - what is known about the family of the head of Kazselezashchita, Karim Kokrekbaev?

Not guilty verdict for Kokrekbaev

In court, the efforts of Almaty prosecutors were unsuccessful. It was not possible to prove that Karim Kokrekbaev received a bribe . The judge and jury acquitted him under Part 4 of Article 366 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

“Kokrekbaev has the right to compensation and compensation for harm caused by the illegal actions of the body conducting the criminal process.”

After the judge’s decision was announced, the ex-official was released right in the courtroom.

Adlet Akhataev was found not guilty of committing a criminal offense related to receiving a bribe in the amount of $402,700 in an episode in December 2022, as the court did not find convincing evidence. But he was convicted on the second episode, namely for accepting a bribe in the amount of $397,621. For this, he was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment and banned for life from holding positions in the civil service. Akhataev will serve his sentence in a maximum security colony.

Andrei Poplavsky was also sentenced to 11 years in prison. The court decided to recover from him in favor of the state 237,000 US dollars stored in Bank Center Credit JSC.

As for transactions on the construction of engineering and protective structures on the Khorgos River in the Almaty region, after the court decision enters into legal force, the documents will be returned to the state institution “Kazselezaschita”.

The Prosecutor General’s Office will appeal the verdict

On June 8, the Prosecutor General’s Office announced that an appeal would be filed against the court’s verdict in the case of the ex-head of the State Institution “Kazselezashchita” to cancel it.

Previously, has written more than once about nepotism, disorder and theft at strategic facilities of Kazselezashchita in the Almaty region. For example, a former employee of a government agency told the editors in detail how management stole government property and used their official position.

And six months ago, deputies criticized the multibillion-dollar contract of Kazselezashchita with the Tolagai-2050 company, where the founder was the niece of ex-president Nursultan Nazarbayev. The company, as it turned out, was repeatedly criticized for projects for the reconstruction of irrigation systems, mechanical cleaning of the Sairan reservoir, as well as other projects in Almaty and Pavlodar region.