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Imprisoned Kazakh Tycoon Related to Former President’s Family May Be Released

ASTANA — Imprisoned Kazakh tycoon Qairat Boranbaev, whose daughter is a widow of a grandson of former President Nursultan Nazarbaev, may be released from a detention center after agreeing to cooperate with investigators and cover the financial damage caused by his criminal activities.

Boranbaev and his two co-defendants, businessmen Roman Nakhanov and Taiyr Zhanuzaq, were sentenced to eight years in prison each on embezzlement charges in late March. The trio had pleaded not guilty at the time.

In June, a court in Astana canceled the sentences, citing the absence of key documents the charges against the three men were based on.

On August 22, Boranbaev’s lawyer, Daniyar Qanafin, stated at a new hearing of the case in Astana that his client had changed his plea and accepted that he embezzled 14.6 billion tenges (more than $32 million), which he had returned to the State Treasury.

Qanafin also announced that his client is ready to make a deal with investigators and prosecutors.

Judge Aisulu Slambekova and Prosecutor Olzhas Khairullin accepted the motion, which means that Boranbaev may be released soon.

Boranbaev’s daughter, Alima Boranbaeva, and Nazarbaev’s grandson, Aisultan Nazarbaev, married in 2013. In September 2020, Aisultan Nazarbaev, who reportedly suffered from drug addiction and had run-ins with the law in the United Kingdom, died in London at the age of 29.

Boranbaev, 56, was arrested after unprecedented antigovernment protests in early January last year after which the Kazakh regime began to quietly target Nazarbaev, his family, and other allies — many of whom held powerful or influential posts in government, security agencies, and profitable energy companies.

In September 2022, another court in Astana sentenced Nazarbaev’s nephew Qairat Satybaldy to six years in prison on corruption charges.

President Qasym-Zhomart Toqaev has taken a series of moves since the unrest to push Nazarbaev, who ruled the tightly controlled former Soviet republic with an iron fist for almost three decades, further into the background following his resignation in 2019.

Though he officially stepped down as president, Nazarbaev retained sweeping powers as the head of the country’s powerful Security Council. He also enjoyed substantial powers by holding the title of elbasy — the leader of the nation.

Even after Nazarbaev’s resignation, many Kazakhs remained bitter over the oppression of his reign.

Those feelings came to a head in January last year when unprecedented antigovernment nationwide protests were sparked by a fuel price hike.

The demonstrations unexpectedly exploded into deadly countrywide unrest over perceived corruption under the Nazarbaev regime and the cronyism that allowed his family and close friends to enrich themselves while ordinary citizens failed to share in the oil-rich nation’s wealth.

Toqaev subsequently stripped Nazarbaev of his Security Council role, taking it over himself. Since then, several of Nazarbaev’s relatives and allies have been pushed out of their positions or resigned.

Kazakh critics say Toqaev’s initiatives were cosmetic and did not change the nature of the autocratic system in a country that has been plagued for years by rampant corruption and nepotism.

Source: Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty