Kyrgyzstan: Ex-customs Official Matraimov Wanted by Authorities

Published: 26 January 2024

Matraimov SanctionsFormer deputy chief of the Kyrgyzstan's customs Raimbek Matraimov. (Photo: Kloop)

By Metin Kazama

Kyrgyzstan has placed a corrupt former customs official, believed to have siphoned millions out of the country, on a wanted list following temporary detentions, deals with the judiciary and money laundering charges, the Kyrgyz RFE/RL outlet Azattyk was told by the Interior Ministry.

OCCRP and its international partners published in 2019 a series of investigations about the former deputy head of the State Customs Service, Raimbek Matraimov, which described how he used his political connections to help funnel an estimated US$700 million out of Kyrgyzstan to a dozen countries across the world. The revelations prompted mass protests, with participants demanding his arrest.

In October 2020, Matraimov was detained by the State Committee of National Security, GKNB, on suspicion of stealing millions of dollars of public money. The former customs official was subsequently released after making a deal to pay back $24.5 million, a portion of the sum he allegedly siphoned from the state.

In December 2020, Matraimov and his wife were sanctioned by the United States under the Global Magnitsky Act.

In February 2021, he pleaded guilty to corruption charges in district court in Bishkek, paying a fine of only $3,000. The court terminated the freezes that had previously been placed on the property and bank accounts of Matraimov and his relatives.

Later that month, Matraimov was arrested for money laundering, the GKNB said in a statement, and placed by a court in pre-trial detention for at least two months.

Then in October 2023, Kyrgyz media reported that Matraimov had been summoned by the GKNB for a “precautionary conversation.”

The next month, the head of the GKNB Kamchybek Tashiev announced that 202 state employees had been fired for their connections with Matraimov and his alleged accomplice, the now deceased organized crime boss Kamchy Kolbaev.

“Matraimov’s clan and their illegally earned wealth should not interfere with the development of the country,” Tashiev said.

However, since then Matraimov hasn’t been seen in public and was rumored to have fled the country.

The State Committee of National Security has put him on its wanted list but for “assisting to restrict an individual’s freedom of movement by forcible detention in the absence of signs of malfeasance.”

No other details or explanations are currently available.