Ex-spy chief jailed as elite power struggle widens in oil-rich Kazakhstan

The Tengiz oil refinery in KazakhstanA former director of Kazakhstan’s feared intelligence agency has been given a lengthy prison sentence, as a ruthless power struggle between rival factions surrounding the country’s president widens. From 2001 to 2006, Nartai Dutbayev directed the Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB), a direct institutional descendant of the Soviet-era KGB. Founded in 1992, the KNB is today directly controlled by Kazakhstan’s authoritarian President, Nursultan Nazarbayev. Many officials serving in senior KNB positions are members of the president’s family, or close friends.

For many years, Dutbayev enjoyed unchallenged power, which was afforded to him by way of his close links to the presidential palace. But in 2006, he resigned from his top KNB post in the aftermath of the murder of popular Kazakh opposition politician Altynbek Sarsenbaev. Ten members of a specialist commando unit within the KNB were found guilty of Sarsenbaev’s murder. He was killed soon after he announced his decision to compete electorally against President Nazarbayev. But Dutbayev was never personally censured by the government. Then, in December of last year, Dutbayev was arrested on charges of “divulging government secrets”. The former spy chief’s trial began in July of this year, but was conducted in its entirety behind closed doors.

This past Monday it was reported that Dutbayev was sentenced to 7 ½ years in prison for espionage on August 24. It is not known why Dutbayev’s sentence was announced to the country’s media more than two weeks after it was formally imposed by the court. Additionally, Kazakh authorities have said nothing about who Dutbayev is believed to have divulged government secrets to, or why. Three alleged accomplices of Dutbayev, including former senior KNB officials Erlan Nurtaev and Nurlan Khasen, were also sentenced to between three and five years in prison for espionage.

Many observers believe that the jailing of the KNB officials is part of a broader power struggle that is currently taking place between rival factions competing to succeed President Nazarbayev. Kazakhstan’s leader has ruled the former Soviet Republic with an iron fist since before its independence from the USSR in 1991. The KNB appears to be a central player in the unfolding power struggle between the country’s governing elites. Almost exactly nine years ago, a Kazakh intelligence officer tried unsuccessfully to abduct another KNB former director, Alnur Musaev, who was living in self-imposed exile in Austria at the time. Many believe that he was acting under Nazarbayev’s direct orders. In 2014, two Kazakh men, believed to be KNB officers, tried unsuccessfully to abduct Viktor Khrapunov, Kazakhstan’s former Minister for Energy and Coal, who also served as mayor of Almati, before leaving Kazakhstan for Switzerland.

Dutbayev is reportedly already in prison. He is believed to be sharing a cell with Serik Akhmetov, Kazakhstan’s former prime minister, who is serving 11 years for alleged corruption.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 12 September 2017 | Permalink

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Austrian court acquits Kazakh security officials in double-murder trial

Vadim Koshlyak and Alnur MusaevKazakhstan’s former spy chief and a former presidential bodyguard have been acquitted by an Austrian jury, five months after a co-defendant in their double-murder trial, who was also the Kazakh president’s former son-in-law, was found dead in his Vienna cell. As intelNews has written before, the case centers on the 2007 disappearance of Aybar Khasenov and Zholdas Timraliyev, both of them senior executives of JSC Nurbank, one of Kazakhstan’s largest private banking institutions. Their bodies were found in May of 2011 in a dumping site in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest urban center. They had been stuffed in large metallic barrels filled with lime. Both had been tortured and one of them had been raped prior to being killed.

The Kazakh regime of autocratic President Nursultan Nazarbayev accused Rakhat Aliyev of the murder of the two executives. Aliyev, who was Nazarbayev’s former son-in-law, had served for years as Kazakhstan’s deputy foreign minister before being appointed director of the country’s intelligence agency, the National Security Committee, also known as KNB. In 2007, however, Aliyev, who by that time was serving as Kazakhstan’s ambassador in Vienna, divorced the president’s eldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva. He subsequently fell out with the presidential family in spectacular fashion. He was almost immediately stripped of his government positions, including the title of ambassador, and issued with an arrest warrant, while the Kazakh authorities demanded that Austria surrender him to Astana.

However, Austrian authorities rejected two extradition requests by the Kazakhs and decided instead to investigate the case for themselves. They soon arrested Aliyev along with two of his alleged accomplices in the murder of the Nurbank executives. The two, Vadim Koshlyak, a former bodyguard of Nazarbayev, and Alnur Musaev, who like Aliyev is a former director of the KNB, were also residing in Vienna at the time. All three were taken to prison while the Austrian authorities investigated the murders. The plot thickened in February of this year, however, when Aliyev was found hanged in his Vienna cell. The official verdict was suicide, but Aliyev’s family and lawyers have rejected it and they, along with many other exiled critics of Nazarbayev’s regime, have raised questions about possible complicity of the KNB in the killing. As intelNews reported back in 2009, a Kazakh intelligence operative was arrested by Austrian authorities in 2008, as he was trying to kidnap Musaev.

The trial of the two surviving defendants, Koshlyak and Musaev, opened in April of this year in Vienna amidst tight security, involving dozens of judicial guards. Over sixty witnesses testified either in person or via video-link, many of them in disguise in order to conceal their identities. The BBC described the court proceedings as “the most complex and unusual Austria has seen”. Both defendants pleaded not guilty, while their lawyers said they had been framed by the corrupt Kazakh government because they were friends of the late Aliyev. They also said that Kazakh authorities had provided the Austrian prosecutors with false evidence designed to convict Koshlyak and Musaev.

On Friday last week, Musaev was fully acquitted by the jury while Koshlyak was sentenced to two years in jail, of which 14 months were suspended. In accordance with Austrian judicial procedure, the jury gave no reasoning for its decision. The prosecutors said that they plan to appeal the decision.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 14 July 2015 | Permalink: https://intelnews.org/2015/07/14/01-1734/

Austria probes gruesome murders with alleged Kazakh spy link

Vadim Koshlyak and Alnur MusaevBy JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org
An Austrian court is hearing testimony this week on a gruesome murder case, allegedly by former officials in Kazakhstan’s intelligence agency, one of whom was found dead in his Vienna prison cell in February. The case, which resembles a Hollywood film plot, centers on the disappearance of two bank executives: Aybar Khasenov and Zholdas Timraliyev, both employees of JSC Nurbank, one of Kazakhstan’s largest private banking institutions, vanished without trace in 2007. Their bodies were found in May of 2011 in a dumping site in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest urban center. They had been stuffed in large metallic barrels filled with lime. Both had been tortured and one of them had been raped prior to being killed.

The Kazakh government of authoritarian President Nursultan Nazarbayev accused Rakhat Aliyev of the murder of the two executives. Aliyev, who was Nazarbayev’s former son-in-law, had served for years as Kazakhstan’s deputy foreign minister before being appointed director of the country’s intelligence agency, the National Security Committee, also known as KNB. In 2007, however, Aliyev, who by that time was serving as Kazakhstan’s ambassador in Vienna, divorced the president’s eldest daughter, Dariga Nazarbayeva. He then fell out with the presidential family in spectacular fashion. He was almost immediately stripped of his government positions, including the title of ambassador, and issued with an arrest warrant, while the Kazakh authorities demanded that Austria surrender him to Astana.

However, Austrian authorities rejected two consecutive extradition requests by the Kazakhs and decided instead to investigate the case for themselves. They soon arrested Aliyev along with two of his alleged accomplices in the murder of the two Nurbank executives. The two, Vadim Koshlyak, a former bodyguard of Nazarbayev, and Alnur Musaev, who like Aliyev is a former director of the KNB, were also residing in Vienna at the time. All three were taken to prison while the Austrian authorities investigated the murders. The plot thickened in February of this year, however, when Aliyev was found hanged in his Vienna cell. The official verdict was suicide, but Aliyev’s family and lawyers have rejected it and they, along with many other exiled critics of Nazarbayev’s regime, have raised questions about possible complicity of the KNB in the killing. As intelNews reported back in 2009, a Kazakh intelligence operative was arrested by Austrian authorities in 2008, as he was trying to kidnap Musaev.

The trial of the two surviving defendants, Koshlyak and Musaev, opened on Monday in Vienna amidst tight security, involving dozens of judicial guards. Over sixty witnesses are scheduled to testify either in person or via video-link, many of them wearing disguises so as to conceal their identities.

Latest developments in ongoing Kazakh intelligence war

Alnur Musaev

Alnur Musaev

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
In September of 2008, a Kazakh spy, identified by Austrian authorities only as “Ildar A.”, tried to kidnap from Austria former Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB) chief Alnur Musaev (photo), who has lived in self-imposed exile in Vienna since 2007. Apparently, Musaev, who has fallen out with the Kazakh dictatorship, knows too many secrets about corrupt Kazakh rulers. One can see why the latter consider him a national security threat: last week, Musaev gave an interview to Washington-owned Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL), in which he said that Rakhat Aliyev, also former KNB director and former son-in-law of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev, might have been involved in the kidnapping of two high-ranking bankers in Kazakhstan. Read more of this post

Kazakh ambassador to London was KGB spy, paper claims

Abusseitov

Abusseitov

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
British authorities may consider expelling Kazakhstan’s ambassador to the UK a newspaper alleged he used to be a KGB spy. British weekly The Mail on Sunday claims to be in possession of a 175-page file from Soviet intelligence archives, which allegedly proves that Kazakh attaché to London Kairat Abusseitov, was recruited by the KGB in 1988 and given the codename “Delano”. The paper alleges that Abusseitov has continued working for independent Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee, also known as KNB, until today. In addition to his ambassadorial duties, Abusseitov also presides over the British Kazakh Society (BKS), whose honorary patron is Prince Andrew, second son and third child of Queen Elizabeth II. Read more of this post

News you may have missed #0036

  • Hungary’s security head resigns in wake of spying scandal. Sandor Laborc has resigned as head of Hungary’s National Security Office (NBH) after NBH agents were caught spying on politicians.
  • Austria to try Kazakh spy for kidnap attempt. Austrian officials say they will put a suspected Kazakh spy, identified only “Ildar A.”, on trial for attempting to kidnap from Austria former Kazakh National Security Committee (KNB) chief Alnur Musaev last September. See previous intelNews reporting on the ongoing Austrian-Kazakh intelligence imbroglio.
  • Obama’s unwilling cyber czars. Barack Obama is expected to soon appoint a national cybersecurity adviser. But Andy Greenberg argues that the appointee’s name may not be as important as the names of those who have “politely declined” the role.

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Austrian police officers arrested on Kazakh espionage charges

Rakhat Aliyev

Rakhat Aliyev

By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS | intelNews.org |
Last month we reported on Rakhat Aliyev, former Director of Kazakhstan’s National Security Committee (KNB) and former son-in-law to the country’s dictatorial president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. In 2007, following his divorce with Nazarbayev’s eldest daughter, Aliyev was stripped of his government positions, issued with an arrest warrant, and now lives in exile in Vienna, Austria. Soon afterwards, Aliyev began exposing President Nazarbayev’s corrupt dealings with foreign oil companies operating in Kazakhstan. In January of this year, a Kazakh-employed public relations firm working to “exonerate” Nazarbayev was found to have received assistance from “two anonymous serving officers of MI6”, Britain’s external intelligence agency. Now a new scandal has erupted in Vienna, where two Austrian police officers have been arrested by the country’s authorities and charged with “spying for Kazakhstan”. The two officers were apprehended by counterintelligence agents while reportedly “gathering information from a computer about Rakhat Aliyev”. Read more of this post