ALMATY May 25 Kazakhstan's security service
arrested the head of the state uranium company on suspicion of
theft, it said on Monday, the latest in a string of high-profile
criminal cases in the Central Asian state.
The deepening financial crisis has sharpened divisions among
Kazakhstan's ruling elite and triggered a chain of criminal
investigations and arrests in government and industry.
In the latest case, KNB, the successor service to Soviet-era
KGB, said it had arrested Mukhtar Dzhakishev, the long-serving
head of Kazatomprom, one of the world's biggest uranium
Dzhakishev, who presided over Kazatomprom's rise as a global
uranium major, is one of Kazakhstan's most well-known business
figures. He was sacked from the job last week but it was unclear
what led to his dismissal.
"A criminal case has been opened," said KNB spokesman
Kenzhebulat Beknazarov, adding that a group of other executives
were also arrested. "A number of managers in Kazatomprom is
being investigated in connection to large scale theft."
Kazakhstan is home to a fifth of global uranium reserves and
Kazatomprom has worked closely with global majors to develop
into the world's third largest uranium producer.
Kazakhstan is Central Asia's biggest economy and oil
producer. It has attracted billions of dollars in foreign
investment but has been hit hard by the global economic crisis
which has ended a decade of double-digit economic growth.
A string of senior figures including heads of the
state railway company and state energy firm KazMunaiGas, have
been jailed in what the government describes as a campaign
Mukhtar Ablyazov, chairman of biggest bank BTA, nationalised
this year, fled Kazakhstan altogether this year following a row
with the Kazakh authorities.
Analysts say recent developments highlight tensions in the
political circle around President Nursultan Nazarbayev, 68, who
has run the country since 1989 but has no clear successor.
Unlike some other leaders of post-Soviet state, he has not
publicly picked a possible heir to his rule, heightening
intrigue among potential candidates and keeping foreign
investors guessing about the continuity of his policies.
(Reporting by Raushan Nurshayeva; Writing by Maria Golovnina;
Editing by Jon Hemming)