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Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
07ASHGABAT1299
2007-11-29 03:16:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Ashgabat
Cable title:  

TURKMENISTAN: NIGHTLIFE OF THE RICH AND POWERFUL

Tags:   PGOV  PINR  TX 
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VZCZCXRO8422
PP RUEHAG RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV
DE RUEHAH #1299/01 3330316
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 290316Z NOV 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9798
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA PRIORITY 3053
RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING PRIORITY 0868
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO PRIORITY 0742
RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL PRIORITY 1318
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL PRIORITY
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE PRIORITY 1957
						C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ASHGABAT 001299 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/28/2017
TAGS: PGOV PINR TX
SUBJECT: TURKMENISTAN: NIGHTLIFE OF THE RICH AND POWERFUL

REF: A. ASHGABAT 1246

B. ASHGABAT 1088

Classified By: CHARGE SYLVIA REED CURRAN FOR REASONS 1.5 (B) AND (D).



1. (C) SUMMARY: Emboffs recently got a glimpse into the
nocturnal habits of Turkmenistan's rich and powerful. A male
relative of President Berdimuhamedov was involved in a bar
fight with a foreigner, but the police were never called.
Two high-ranking Ministry of National Security officials
(secret police), known for driving at high speeds while under
the influence and "fixing" their friends' problems, bragged
to a visiting FSO in a local nightspot about their illegal
extracurricular activities. They also received an endless
stream of free food and drink. Although the former Minister
of Internal Affairs got sacked for supposedly covering up his
nephew's criminal behavior, the truth is that elites in
Turkmenistan, like in many other countries, especially those
without rule of law, often play by their own rules. END
SUMMARY.



2. (C) F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in one of his short
stories, "let me tell you about the very rich. They are
different from you and me." Elites in many countries often
are not constrained by the same rules that apply to others.
This is particularly the case for countries without rule of
law, such as Turkmenistan. Recently, Embassy officers were
given a view inside how different the lives of the powerful
and well-connected are.

WHAT HAPPENED WAS



3. (C) Very little is known about President
Berdimuhamedov's family, and there has been only one possible
sighting of his wife in the past year. However, emboffs had
a close encounter with someone a longtime Embassy source
later told us was either Berdimuhamedov's son or nephew when
they witnessed a bar fight on the eve of Independence Day.
According to one emboff who witnessed the fight on October
26, the Nissa Hotel bar that evening was crowded with
Australian and French/Swiss pyrotechnic experts, who were in
Ashgabat to do the fireworks displays for the Independence
Day events. It was around 2320, and emboff was standing just
a few feet from the bar when he saw a short Turkmen male
(5'6", average build, about 160 pounds - the purported
Berdimuhamedov relative) chatting with someone who appeared
to be a high-ranking Turkmen official (he was wearing a gold
Niyazov lapel pin). The short Turkmen male brushed the arm
of one of the Australians, who was holding a glass of beer in
that hand. This caused the beer to spill on the Australian's
t-shirt. The Australian then barked something totally
unintelligible to the Turkmen, who of course ignored it and
started to exit the bar with his two-man entourage. The
Australian (about 6'5", strong build, and around 190lbs)
grabbed the smaller Turkman fellow, and a 10-second fight
ensued. It was not clear to emboff who threw the first blow,

but both men seemed to have successfully landed punches as
evidenced by blood on their shirts and faces. The Turkmen
was then ushered quickly out of the bar by his associates.



4. (C) The next day emboffs remarked to colleagues that what
surprised them most about the fight was that a Turkmen would
run the risk of getting into trouble by fighting in a public
place. Of course, it did not occur to them that this person
could be immune from such problems.

YOUNG MNB MEN ABOUT TOWN



5. (C) Another FSO had the opportunity recently to see how
well-connected Turkmen enjoy their off hours. A visiting FSO
was invited November 23 by the Italian manager of the Ahal
group of hotels to spend an evening out in Ashgabat. The two
arrived around 2300 at the British Pub, a two-story bar/disco
that is located in the commercial center of town. Given the
late hour, the main entrance was closed, and they were
required to enter via the back door of a restaurant that is

ASHGABAT 00001299 002 OF 003


adjacent to the pub. The pub has a large bar, overhead TVs,
several pool tables, and live rock music on the first floor.
Given its location and popularity among expatriates
(including the U.S. Embassy), it is a favorite hangout for
the city's elite, particularly those who work for foreign
companies, organizations, embassies, or who wish to associate
with them. There is also a clientele, particularly of
younger, less-privileged women and men, who appear to
frequent the pub in order to make contact with foreigners,
for business or pleasure. In short, it is a safe locale,
where the respectable and not so respectable worlds meet.



6. (C) On this occasion, the FSO was introduced to two
30-something Turkmen males, who called themselves Said and
Murat. According to the Italian, who is very well-connected,
because he runs the premiere hotel and banquet facility in
Ashgabat, the two men were very senior Ministry of National
Security (MNB - secret police) officials and were among the
wealthiest and most powerful men in the country. He said
they go around town with impunity and warned the FSO to be
careful as these individuals "could have your visa canceled
and you out of the country" immediately if they wanted.
(COMMENT: The Italian, no doubt, knows about people who
quickly leave the country when they run afoul of
Turkmenistan's high and mighty. Recently, one of his
colleagues, the former General Manager of the President
Hotel, quickly and mysteriously left the country, following
some issue involving President Berdimuhamedov's chicken farm.
Reftel. END COMMENT.) The Italian also noted that since he
befriended these two MNB officials, he has not had any
problems with anyone or anything in town. In fact, several
times, when problems did come up, a phone call to one of them
resolved everything. He was quite proud of the fact that
Said and Murat had facilitated every aspect of his life in
Ashgabat and said those who have had run-ins with the two
have been known to "disappear."



7. (C) The Italian shared several anecdotes to illustrate
his point, including one in which Said was driving through
Ashgabat during the early hours of the morning, at top speed
and clearly under the influence. No policeman stopped Said,
despite the fact that he passed numerous police stationed
along the side of the road, who signaled other drivers to
pull over. The Italian attributed this to the fact that all
the policemen knew Said and his vehicle.

LARGE AND IN CHARGE



8. (C) Judging by the men's demeanor and their interaction
with staff and other visitors, they did seem to be authority
figures. Pub staff, including the manager, appeared to be
trembling every time they came to either serve or greet.
During the entire time that the FSO and the Italian were at
the British Pub (2-3 hours), staff brought an endless array
of food and drink to Said and Murat. Despite a public
smoking ban in effect in Ashgabat, the two Turkmen smoked
openly and nearly continuously. At one point in the evening,
the Turkmen invited the FSO and the Italian upstairs to the
second floor, where the best table in the disco, adjacent to
the DJ, was already set up for the group. After being
greeted by the bartender, the DJ invited the Italian and one
of the Turkmen to spend some time with him in his booth.
More drinks and food arrived. No wait staff ever presented a
bill or came to collect money, leading the FSO to believe
this largesse was all gratis. In fact, the Italian
recommended that the FSO not attempt to offer to pay for his
drinks, as everything was "covered" and the Turkmen might be
offended. He never paid for anything, no matter where he
went with them.



9. (C) After several toasts and lots of drinking by the
Turkmen, they opened up, talking about Ashgabat, women and,
alcohol. They gave accounts of inebriated sexual encounters
around town, which apparently included multiple female
prostitutes and transvestites. By the tme the FSO left, one
of the Turkmen had found female company.

ASHGABAT 00001299 003 OF 003





10. (C) COMMENT: Back in October, President Berdimuhamedov
fired Minister of Internal Affairs Annagurbanov in part
because of an alleged breakdown of law and order during
Annagurbanov's tenure, including an effort by the
then-minister to cover up a crime by one of his nephews. (As
reported Ref. B, Berdimuhamedov claimed he had told
Annagurbanov that nobody, including even the president's own
relatives, should be exempt from punishment.) It could be
that Annagurbanov's nephew's crime was particularly
egregious, or it simply could have been the last straw among
other reasons to sack the guy. The truth, however, is that
elites play by their own rules. END COMMENT.
CURRAN