Identifier
Created
Classification
Origin
09ASTANA191
2009-02-02 10:26:00
CONFIDENTIAL
Embassy Astana
Cable title:  

KAZAKHSTAN: DETAINED NEWSPAPER EDITOR YESERGEPOV

Tags:  PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM KPAO KZ 
pdf how-to read a cable
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000191 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/02/2019
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM KPAO KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: DETAINED NEWSPAPER EDITOR YESERGEPOV
ALLEGEDLY LINKED TO SHADY BUSINESMAN

REF: A. ASTANA 0058

B. 08 ASTANA 2383

Classified By: Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland, 1.4 (b)/(d)

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ASTANA 000191

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SCA/CEN, DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/02/2019
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PREL KDEM KPAO KZ
SUBJECT: KAZAKHSTAN: DETAINED NEWSPAPER EDITOR YESERGEPOV
ALLEGEDLY LINKED TO SHADY BUSINESMAN

REF: A. ASTANA 0058

B. 08 ASTANA 2383

Classified By: Ambassador Richard E. Hoagland, 1.4 (b)/(d)


1. (C) SUMMARY: Media reports link Ramazan Yesergepov, the
Editor-in-Chief of "Alma-Ata Info" newspaper who has been
detained and charged with disseminating classified
information, with an unsavory business tycoon, Sultan
Makhmadov. One of Makhmadov's companies is under
investigation for tax evasion by the Committee for National
Security (KNB). Makhamdov's case is the subject of the
November 21 Alma-Ata Info article that cited two classified
KNB documents and landed Yesergepov in his current
predicament. The KNB alleges that Makhmadov "organized the
theft" of the classified documents and paid Yesergepov to
publish the article. Yesergepov, who is refusing to divulge
his source, denies any links to Makhmadov. The MFA cited
these details in arguing to us that the Yesergepov case is
not a human rights case. Yesergepov's wife asked for our
intervention in getting the court to release him on bail and
reduce the charges against him. We provided her with NGO
contacts to help her obtain a new defense attorney. END
SUMMARY.

SHADY BUSINESSMAN ...


2. (SBU) More details are coming to the fore in the case of
Ramazan Yesergepov, the Editor-in-Chief of "Alma-Ata Info
newspaper" who remains in the custody of the Committee for
National Security (KNB),charged with dissemination of
classified information (ref A). Various media reports point
to ties between Yesergepov and an allegedly unsavory
businessman named Sultan Makhmadov. Makhmadov is a business
tycoon in Zhambul oblast who began with a small shop in the
early 1990s and successfully built a conglomerate that
produces over 30 types of goods, including food additives,
bio-ethanol, and liquor. Last year, the Zhambyl oblast KNB
apparently opened a tax evasion investigation into one of
Makhmadov's liquor-export companies, "Taraz." The KNB
contends that the company failed to pay over $6 million in
taxes and customs fees on its liquor exports. The

authorities have also hinted that Makhmadov, who is an ethnic
Chechen, has links to warlords in Chechnya and has been
involved in illegal arms smuggling, although no charges have
been brought against him on these grounds.

... OR VICTIM OF KNB PERSECUTION?


3. (SBU) The "Alma-Ata Info" article that landed Yesergepov
in his current predicament deals specifically with the KNB's
investigation of Makhamadov. The article, published on
November 21, accused the Zhambyl oblast KNB of attempting to
use its influence to steer the legal process. As evidence,
the paper published two letters allegedly from the head of
the Zhambyl oblast KNB to national-level KNB Chairman
Amangeldy Shabdarbayev, both marked "classified." In the
first, the Zhambyl KNB head claims he wants to inform
"interested parties" that Makhmadov will try to reach out to
President Nazarbayev in order to "blackmail" the authorities
investigating him. (NOTE: Makhmadov has been known to boast
that he is "a friend of the President," although it is hard
to judge the strength of those ties. He has also been linked
to Rakhat Aliyev, Nazarbayev's exiled former son-in-law. END
NOTE.) In the second letter, the Zhambul KNB head asks
Shabdarbayev to reach out to the Prosecutor General and the
Supreme Court to assure a favorable verdict in the KNB's
court case against the "Taraz" company. The "Alma-Ata Info"
article also alleged that the KNB fabricated evidence against
Makhmadov and exerted pressure on a witness to give false
testimony.

JOURNALISM FOR HIRE?


4. (SBU) The provenance of the two classified letters is
the crux of the authorities' case against Yesergepov.
Yesergepov refuses to disclose his source, but the KNB

ASTANA 00000191 002 OF 002


alleges that Makhmadov "organized the theft" of the documents
and paid Yesergepov to publish the article. According to
press reports, the KNB claims that proof of remuneration and
evidence that Makhmadov "edited" the article were found
during the KNB's search of Yesergepov's offices. Makhmadov
was arrested in early December and charged with illegal
receipt and dissemination of state secrets, although he has
since been released on bail. Yesergepov denies any links to
Makhmadov. In a letter to the diplomatic corps about the
case, Yesergepov's wife accuses the authorities of
intentionally linking her husband to "these people" to scare
him and force him into a confession.

MFA MAINTAINS CASE IS REALLY ABOUT MAKHMADOV


5. (C) MFA Americas Department head Talgat Kaliyev told us
on January 27 that Yesergepov's case is not a human rights
case at all and the Embassy "should stay away from it." He
maintained that Yesergepov is not an important civil society
figure, but rather "a nobody," publishing a newspaper with
very limited circulation, and now he is enjoying his 15
minutes of fame. Kaliyev claimed that the case is really
about Makhmadov -- whom he described as a "manufacturer of
counterfeit vodka" - but Yesergepov got caught up in it
because Makhmadov paid him to publish the internal KNB
documents to discredit the criminal investigation against
Makhmadov. Unfortunately, Yesergepov became frightened and
refused to voluntarily submit to KNB questioning, and that
only got him in more trouble. Kaliyev said that he had
warned colleagues in other ministries that despite all these
facts, the case would draw negative attention from the
international community, and cause problems for Kazakhstan --
which is exactly what is happening.

WIFE ASKS FOR INTERVENTION


6. (SBU) We also met on January 27 with Yesergepov's wife,
Raushan Yesergepova, who came to Astana to meet with the
Prosecutor General's Office and foreign diplomatic missions,
including the Czech Embassy in its capacity representing the
EU Presidency. Yesergepova said she had briefly visited her
husband in detention several days earlier, and reported that
he is being treated well. She requested our assistance in
getting the court to release him on bail and reduce the
charges against him. She also expressed dissatisfaction with
her husband's defense attorney and disappointment that no
big-name human rights defenders have stepped up to aid her
husband. We explained that we are following her husband's
case closely, but can not intervene directly with the court.
We informed her aVl_~{4XWh NGOs involved in providing legal aid for journalists.
(NOTE: Our understanding is that one of these NGOs is now
assisting her in obtaining a new defense attorney. END NOTE.)


7. (C) COMMENT: The latest revelations support our earlier
conclusions that the Yesergepov case is far from a
straightforward one. Our approach needs to continue taking
into account the nuances of the case, which is exactly what
we managed to do in our January 22 OSCE PC statement. END
COMMENT.

HOAGLAND