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Voice of Democracy
Published by Kazakhstan 21st Century Foundation · Washington, D.C. Apr. 3, 2003

DO I GET ONE PHONE CALL? -- President Nazarbayev's close advisor -- and if investigators are right, his partner in crime -- was nabbed by the feds Sunday as he tried to board a flight to Kazakhstan. James Giffen, close friend and confidante of the Kazakh dictator, was charged with funneling some $25 million in bribes to senior Kazakh officials in exchange for lucrative oil deals, reported Reuters. Giffen, free on $10 million bond, is charged with one count of conspiracy and one count of bribing foreign officials; if convicted, he could be sentenced to as much as 5 years in prison on each charge. Giffen's lawyer, to no one's surprise, declared his client innocent and said the charges are " based on circumstantial evidence and an overactive imagination." Dow Jones Business Service said Giffen paid the bribes to the top Kazakh officials " so his small merchant bank in Manhattan could participate in lucrative oil company deals." "James Giffen was Mr Kazakhstan. If you wanted an oil concession in Kazakhstan, you went to Giffen," according to Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, reported the Financial Times. Although Nazarbayev was not mentioned by name in the charges, previously published reports said he was also under investigation by Swiss and American banking and law enforcement officials in connection with the bribery case.,,

UNINDICTED CONSPIRATOR -- The criminal complained filed by the U.S. attorney in Manhattan accuses James H. Giffen of depositing $20.5 million in a Swiss account whose beneficiaries included a "senior Kazakh official" and "his heirs," reported the New York Times, which said Swiss authorities have identified the "official" as President Nazarbayev. Nazarbayev's Washington lawyer, Reid H. Weingarten, has tried to block any indictment of his client, asking the Bush Administration for "a formal assurance that President Nazarbayev will not be indicted." The Kazakh dictator is under federal investigation for receiving huge bribes and trying to obstruct that investigation. His lawyer reportedly warned that unless the probe is halted it could "strain (US-Kazakh) relations" and harm Kazakh cooperation in the war against terror and on oil and gas business between the two countries. Nazarbayev himself has gone personally to Vice President Dick Cheney and other top U.S. officials to try to quash the investigation. The Times reports those efforts "were rebuffed." Nazarbayev reportedly offered to provide evidence against Giffen and others in exchange for immunity.

WAIT, THERE’S MORE -- On top of the weekend’s charges, President Nazarbayev's counselor James H. Giffen was hit yesterday with a new 64-count indictment yesterday. The latest charges involve filing false tax returns, failing to disclose his foreign bank accounts and tax evasion in connection with more than $78 million in payments he allegedly funneled to two top Kazakh officials, apparently including Nazarbayev. The alleged bribes, according to the indictment unsealed Wednesday, were in connection with six separate oil transactions involving Mobil Oil, Amoco, Texaco and Phillips Petroleum and the sale of oil and gas rights in Kazakhstan. And those aren't the worst of it. He also has been charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, committing mail and wire fraud, money laundering and conspiracy. Giffen, who had the title of "counselor to the president" of Kazakhstan, "made unlawful payments of $22 million from Mobil to secret Swiss bank accounts," according to the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. The accounts were owned by "two high level Kazakh officials" identified only as "KO-1" and "KO-2," one believed to be President Nazarbayev himself. In addition, there was another $70 million from several other oil companies that wound up in Swiss bank accounts under Giffen's control, with most of that money going to secret accounts controlled by KO-1 and KO-2, who used the funds for "personal purposes," according to the indictment. Giffen, who faces up to 88 years in prison if convicted on all counts, “defrauded the people of Kazakhstan” out of millions of dollars and laundered the money “to promote and conceal his crimes,” said the U.S. Attorney. A separate indictment charged former top Mobil Oil executive J. Bryan Williams with evading taxes on $2 million in kickbacks. U.S. Attorney James B. Comey said the investigation is continuing.

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