Friend of Kyrgyz President’s Son Revealed as Co-Owner of Construction Company Behind High-Profile Property Developments

President Sadyr Japarov has promoted two major projects — a large mosque and a complex in the center of Bishkek — that will be developed by an infamous tycoon accused of smuggling. The projects also appear to have a personal connection to the president’s family.

Key Findings

  • The Yiman Borboru mosque and the “Bishkek City Center” are two of the highest-profile development projects currently underway in Kyrgyzstan.
  • The investor behind both is Khabibula Abdukadyr, a Central Asian trade monopolist found in previous investigations to be an alleged smuggler tied to corrupt officials.
  • A construction company partnering with Abdukadyr on both projects has a low-profile co-owner with no business background: A young man who is a friend of the president’s son.
  • Another friend of the president’s son co-owns a trading company with Abdukadyr that is leasing a large plot of land near a key border crossing to China.
  • These findings raise questions about President Japarov’s personal ties to these developments and to Abdukadyr.

March 10 was a busy day for the president of Kyrgyzstan. Trekking across the country’s capital of Bishkek in the spring heat, Sadyr Japarov spoke at two ceremonies to launch the construction of two major developments: a suburban mosque that will fit 20,000 worshippers and a multi-use downtown development that will include the tallest building in the city.

Appearing at the construction sites alongside the president was a key investor in both projects: Khabibula Abdukadyr, a secretive tycoon who made millions running a Central Asian trading empire in collusion with corrupt Kyrgyz customs officials.

Abdukadyr’s main ally, a top official in the customs service, was later found guilty of corruption and sanctioned by the United States. But Abdukadyr himself was never charged, and President Japarov has been unapologetic about his role in the prominent new projects.

“The most important thing is that [the investors] are not wanted [for arrest] and there are no criminal cases against them,” Japarov told reporters the day after the ceremonies. “However, I am interested in those who are ready to invest in Kyrgyzstan. I will greet them with applause.”

But OCCRP reporters have found evidence suggesting that President Japarov’s support for Abdukadyr and his developments — into which the Central Asian tycoon is slated to pour $300 million — goes beyond creating a good investment climate.

Documents unearthed by reporters reveal who’s behind the newly-created construction firm that is slated to build both projects: Among its co-owners, in addition to an Abdukadyr development company, is a 25-year-old with no known business or construction experience. That man is a friend of the president’s son Rustam.

Credit: Presidential Press Service Kyrgyz President Sadyr Japarov (left, foreground) and Khabibula Abdukadyr (left of Japarov) at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Yiman Borboru mosque.

Reporters also found that another of Rustam’s friends — a young man who worked as a mechanic as recently as a few years ago — co-owns another company with Abdukadyr. The purpose of this company is unclear, though it is currently leasing a large plot of land next to a key border crossing through which Abdukadyr ran his alleged smuggling operations.

These findings echo another recent revelation by the local outlet PolitKlinika. According to this investigation, yet a third friend of the president’s son was handed a 50 percent stake in a development company after it was accused of illegal privatization.

The fact that three young men with low public profiles — but with personal ties to President Japarov’s son — are closely tied to such major projects raise serious questions about the president’s involvement.

In previous investigations about Abdukadyr and his political patrons, low-profile young men with personal connections to principal figures often appeared as company directors or shareholders to disguise their involvement in major businesses.

For Temur Umarov, a political analyst and fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, Japarov’s motivations are clear.

“This is a country that’s authoritarian, but pretends to be democratic,” he said. “The person who leads it can create an illusion. We have two ways to understand every situation. The first is the official one, the one they want to convince us of. And the second is the real one. In reality, I think that Japarov and those who surround him just want to create a good life for themselves.”

“Journalists will write that … all of this shouldn’t be happening, that Japarov can’t use his position to let the people around him, and especially his relatives, earn money from unknown places. But everyone understands that, while formally he can’t, in reality he can. No one will get in his way.”

In response to a request for comment, a spokesman for President Japarov wrote that there were “no business ties between the Head of State and these persons,” presumably referring to Abdukadyr and his associates.

“In total, they are investing about $1.5 billion into investment projects in Bishkek,” he wrote, naming a figure several times higher than the cost of the projects reporters had asked about.

“In the conditions of our country, this is a significant amount,” he added, and pointed to “the republic’s socio-economic development over the past 2.5 years” as evidence that Kyrgyzstan’s ability to attract foreign investment was bringing results.

He did not address reporters’ questions about the involvement of the president’s son’s friends in either joint venture.

Abdukadyr did not respond to requests for comment.

Credit: Presidential Press Service In the foreground, the site of the future Bishkek City project in the center of the Kyrgyz capital.

Friends and Family

The terms of Abdukadyr’s investment into both Bishkek City Center and the Yiman Borboru mosque are set out in an agreement approved by Kyrgyzstan’s Cabinet of Ministers and published online.

According to the document, both projects will be realized by Hyper Partners, an Abdukadyr company based in Uzbekistan. In exchange for land from the state and six years of tax benefits, Hyper Partners is obliged to invest at least $300 million in the projects.

Though once obscure, Hyper Partners was revealed as an Abdukadyr vehicle in a previous investigation by OCCRP and partners, which found that the company is building another large-scale project in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent with official support.

The investment agreement also names a Kyrgyz construction company that will take part in the projects, Bishkek Construction and Development. The company, which was founded on the very same day of the opening ceremonies, is described as a Kyrgyz subsidiary of Hyper Partners.

In fact, reporters found, the new company is a joint venture between Hyper Partners and two other firms.

One of these is Repal, a newly established Kyrgyz company about which little is known. Its only shareholder is a young man who received Kyrgyz citizenship in 2018 along with his father.

The other, Mega Construct, was registered just a few days before the joint venture was launched. It is this company where the young Argen Kadyrbekov, a friend of the president’s son Rustam, appears in the paperwork as a founder.

Both men were born in 1997 and socialize in the same circles, attending the same events and appearing in social media posts together. In 2016, Rustam was a guest at Kadyrbekov’s wedding.

Credit: Instagram Rustam Japarov (second from right) in a wedding photo with Argen Kadyrbekov (center, next to bride).

Aside from this connection, and his apparently committed support for Japarov as president, little could be gleaned of Kadyrbekov from public sources.

But reporters also found that the address where Mega Construct is registered, an apartment now owned by Kadyrbekov’s wife, formerly belonged to the president’s family.

At various points between 2013 and 2022, the apartment was owned by two of Japarov’s sisters and his mother. It was only in October 2022 that the apartment was sold to Kadyrbekov’s wife Rakhat Baktybekova.

Kadyrbekov and his wife do not own any other businesses. Sources familiar with Argen and Rakhat’s families describe them as not wealthy people.

Kadyrbekov did not respond to requests for comment.

‘The People And God See Everything’

Kadyrbekov isn’t the only person with ties to the Japarov family to partner with Abdukadyr.

Another young Kyrgyz man, Dastan Ermekbay uulu, is a shareholder and director of two joint ventures with Tashkent Trade Center, an Abdukadyr company in Uzbekistan.

Ermekbay uulu also appears to be a friend of the president’s son, with his social media posts showing them together on several occasions.

GetContact, an app that provides the names under which a phone number is saved by its contacts, shows that at least six people saved Ermekbay uulu’s number in a way that connects him to the President’s son Rustam, such as “Dastan Rustam’s Friend 01” or “Dastan Security Rustam.”

Ermekbay uulu has also worked for the president himself. He was employed at Japarov’s headquarters when he was running for the presidency in 2020-2021.

In several other cases on GetContact, Ermekbay uulu is saved with tags that confirm his ties to the president and connect him to Umut Bulagy, a now-defunct charity formerly run by the first lady: “Sadyr Dastan,” “Dastan Japarov Headquarters,” “Dastan (President),” and “Dastan Umut Bulagy.”

More than a dozen other tags, such as “Dastan Head of Security,” suggest that Ermekbay uulu has been working in a role connected to security.

Ermekbay uulu’s joint ventures with Abdukadyr show few signs of business activity, with one major and telling exception: Their joint company Invest Trade is renting 96 hectares of land a few hundred meters away from the southern Kyrgyz-Chinese border crossing point, Irkeshtam.

As reported in previous investigations, trucks owned by Abdukadyr companies spent years transporting mislabeled goods from China to Kyrgyzstan and other markets, including through this crossing point. In neighboring Uzbekistan, Abdukadyr companies operate trade and logistics centers next to important border crossings.

Ermekbay uulu did not respond to requests for comment.

It is unclear whether the president has an interest in this business. In the interview about Abdukadyr back in March, Japarov said he is not afraid of the opinions of “either scheming journalists or individuals.”

“After all, the most important thing is that I don’t become corrupt, right?” Japarov said. “The people and God see everything.”

With reporting by Kloop.

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