Thursday, 8th June 2023

Ex-Kazakh president’s relatives lose major posts after unrest

The influential son-in-law of Kazakhstan's ex-president resigned as head of the leading business lobby Monday after public anger at perceived corruption

This handout image taken and released by the Kazakh presidential press service on January 7, 2022 shows Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev making a public address in Alamaty. – Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said that order had mostly been restored in the country after days of unprecedented unrest. (Photo by Handout / Kazakhstan Presidential press office / AFP)

The influential son-in-law of Kazakhstan’s ex-president resigned as head of the leading business lobby Monday after public anger at perceived corruption in the Central Asian country precipitated a power struggle and a deadly crisis.

Following days of internet shutdown, prosecutors said Saturday the unrest that began at the start of the year with peaceful protests over energy price hikes had left 225 people dead, including 19 law enforcement and military personnel.

Timur Kulibayev, 55, confirmed his resignation from the Atameken business lobby in a statement posted on the group’s website in the latest sign that the former first family has lost out in a tussle at the top. 

“From today, I decided to resign as the elected Chairman of the Presidium of the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs ‘Atameken’,” Kulibayev said in the statement.

Kulibayev is married to Dinara Kulibayeva, the middle daughter of Kazakhstan’s founding president Nursultan Nazarbayev.

Much of the popular anger in the protests appeared directed at Nazarbayev, who ruled for more than a quarter-century before stepping down in 2019 and handing over power to a hand-picked loyalist.

Nazarbayev has not been seen in public since the end of last year.

– Declining fortunes – His successor, Kassym Jomart-Tokayev, last week for the first time openly criticised the former president, accusing his mentor of failing to share the vast national wealth with ordinary people. 

In another potential sign of the Nazarbayev family’s political decline, Tokayev’s office confirmed Monday that the octogenarian’s nephew Samat Abish had been dismissed from his post as first deputy chief of the national security committee.

It had been announced during the unrest that Abish had been replaced, then that he was only on “annual leave”, until his firing was confirmed on Monday.

While Abish was a high-ranking figure who operated in the shadows, Kulibayev was a prominent jet-setter whose reported relationships with figures such as Queen Elizabeth II’s second son Prince Andrew made him a regular feature in the foreign press.  

Along with Kulibayeva, Kulibayev controls the country’s largest commercial bank, Halyk, and is a powerful player in the oil and gas industry. 

He did not offer a reason for his resignation, but called on the lobby to follow the priorities outlined for business by Tokayev in his speech to lawmakers and officials last week.

On Saturday, the sovereign wealth fund Samruk-Kazyna said that two other Nazarbayev in-laws had left their posts at the helm of national energy companies. 

Youngest daughter Aliya Nazarbayeva’s husband Dimash Dosanov and oldest daughter Dariga Nazarbayeva’s partner Kairat Sharipbayev formerly headed the national oil transporter KazTransOil and the national gas company QazaqGaz respectively.

Separately last week, Nazarbayev ally and former national security chief Karim Masimov was arrested on coup-plotting charges along with two of his deputies, authorities said. 

Over 2,000 troops from the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation credited with stabilising the crisis began to withdraw from Kazakhstan on Thursday. 

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