The Nazarbaev clan retains rule in Kazakhstan
Despite recent popular protests, the family and business partners of the former Kazakh president still control the local economy. An internal struggle within the ruling elite is underway, with Russia and China playing their own game.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - In spite of protests and an institutional crackdown, the family and business partners of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev continue to control the economy of Kazakhstan, one of the most prosperous countries in Central Asia.
Five Kazakhs have made it onto the list of the world's richest people, published annually by Forbes. They are Nazarbayev's daughter Dinara and her husband Timur Kulybaev, owners of the People's Bank, the most important in the country, and linked to the oil industry. Then there is an 'adviser' to the former Kazakh president, Bulat Utemuratov, who is active in many sectors. He owns the Ritz-Carlton hotels in Nur-Sultan, Moscow and Vienna and the Burger King chain in Kazakhstan.
The fourth name is Vladimir Kim, the richest man in the country, with his Kaz Minerals companies, also called the 'Nazarbaev portfolio', for which he is said to have bought a sumptuous property in London. The last of the top-five is called Vjačeslav Kim, not a relative of Vladimir and also called the 'Elon Musk of Kazakhstan'. He is the founder of the innovative bank Kaspi, which processes most payments in Kazakhstan together with Nazarbaev's nephew Kajrat Satybaldy.
Satybaldy is not on the Forbes list, although he is considered one of the richest people in the country. A former general of the Knb, the security services, Satybaldy controls many offshore funds in Luxembourg, according to information released by Radio Azzatyk, which allow him to own the largest telecommunications companies in Kazakhstan.
The recent social and political upheaval raises the question of the real consistency of power of Kasym-Žomart Tokaev, the president appointed by Nazarbayev as his successor, and until now considered to be his puppet. In the last few days Tokaev has eliminated the 'elbasy' (father of the fatherland) himself and many of his relatives and close associates from leadership roles, so much so that some speculate that the 81-year-old Nazarbayev and his clan are in exile, if not dead. Above all, information has been spread about the private flight on 6 January from Almaty-Bishkek-Dubai of his younger brother Bolat, one of the main custodians of the family's wealth, together with five other people.
The former president wanted to calm public opinion with a video in which he assured Tokaev of his loyalty and his stay in the capital Nur-Sultan, but this did not stop the rumours and controversy against him. Local experts assure that Tokaev has no safe references among the oligarchs linked to his predecessor's clan, who for 30 years have known no restraint in their actions.
Opposition politician Aydos Sadykov, founder of the magazine Base, argues that in reality the current conflict in Kazakhstan is an internal settling of accounts within the elite that has so far supported Nazarbayev, with various external forces supporting the different factions, from Putin's Russians to the Chinese, who are very present in the affairs of the wealthy former Soviet republic of Central Asia.