The Pervomaisky District Court of Bishkek announced Saturday that former Kyrgyz customs official Raimbek Matraimov, who was found guilty of corruption earlier this month, is being detained on fresh money laundering charges.
The announcement comes only days after demonstrators took to the streets to protest the court’s earlier decision to fine Matraimov 260,000 soms (roughly USD $3000) after finding him guilty of corruption, a penalty that many saw as too lenient for the gravity of the offense. One Bishkek-based political researcher, Asel Doolotkeldieva, said that the decision was a “slap in the face to the Kyrgyz people,” and indicated that the court system “is not independent and participates in the political machine of the rulers.”
Under the Criminal Code of the Kyrgyz Republic, corruption is punishable by eight to fifteen years’ imprisonment. Matraimov not only evaded a prison term, but was ordered to pay a fine representing only 0.00043 percent of the total funds Matraimov’s network is believed to have funneled out of the country. After the court’s decision on February 11, Matraimov’s bank accounts were unfrozen, and his confiscated property returned.
On Thursday, however, Kyrgyzstan’s State Committee for National Security rearrested Matraimov. On Saturday, by court order, Matraimov was relocated to the GKNB pre-trial detention center, where he is expected to remain for two months.
The US embassy in Bishkek welcomed the rearrest, expressing in a tweet on Saturday its commitment “to working with Kyrgyz law enforcement to identify and, if proven, return stolen Kyrgyz assets to the Kyrgyz people.” Matraimov was placed on the US Magnitsky sanctions list in December 2020 for his involvement in the vast money laundering scheme in the Central Asian nation.