Washington Babylon — July 23, 2008, 11:49 am

Corruption in Kazakhstan? My last illusions are shattered

The Wall Street Journal has been running a terrific series of articles about corruption and human rights abuses in Kazakhstan, which the newspaper describes as “a strategic U.S. friend and energy producer.”

But there was a grimly funny side to the Journal‘s latest story today, in which members of Congress expressed surprise and shock over the possibility that President Nursultan Nazarbayev might possibly be a crook who has diverted billions of dollars into offshore bank account and and despot who rigs elections.

Congressman G.K. Butterfield of North Carolina told the Journal he was troubled by “very serious allegations” of corruption by Kazakhstan’s president, adding that the charges were “serious enough that we have got to look into it….We owe it to American companies doing business in Kazakhstan for them to know the truth.”

Yes, I can imagine that ExxonMobil and Chevron will be stunned to hear that President Nazarbayev is on the take. The news might even lead the oil giants to read the Justice Department’s indictment of American businessman James H. Giffen, who is still awaiting trial on charges that he funneled more than $78 million to Nazarbayev and former prime minister Nurlan Balgimbayev. The indictment says the money came from fees Giffen received from oil companies that won stakes in Kazakh oil fields.

I expect American oil companies will be withdrawing from Kazakshtan, just as soon as they get to the bottom of this.

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