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Former Soviet Union

Over the last seven years, Global Witness has investigated the lack of transparency in the oil, gas and mining markets of the former Soviet Union and how American and European actors have aided the region’s most corrupt regimes.  

Global Witness first looked at the region in 2004 in an examination of an oil-revenue scandal dubbed Kazakhgate, involving the country’s president, Nursultan Nazarbayev, and an American businessman, James Giffen, whose company was later found guilty in a US court in 2010 of paying Nazarbayev a bribe in the form of a luxury speedboat.

Photo: Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan.

We then examined the gas trade between Ukraine, Russia and Turkmenistan, the latter a police state whose then autocratic president, Saparmurat Niyazov, controlled the country’s gas export revenues in accounts held in Deutsche Bank, Germany and used them to fund his ubiquitous personality cult.

We also investigated the workings of RosUkrEnergo, a private company earning billions of dollars supplying gas to Ukraine, without any apparent need for it to even exist. Soon after, a Ukrainian oligarch discussed in our report – Dmitri Firtash – was revealed as the company’s co-owner.

Global Witness has sought to remedy some of these problems through its work on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) – a voluntary initiative that is being implemented in the region by Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan and provides for the disclosure of payments made to governments by extractive companies.

More recently, Global Witness turned to the London Stock Exchange with an examination of Kazakhmys plc, a Kazakh-based copper company on the FTSE 100. Global Witness questioned the disclosure of the company’s links to President Nazarbayev, and highlighted a range of unanswered questions, including Nazarbayev's hotel bill from an official trip to the UK in 2006 which was apparently sent to the company. The report concluded that investors could be at risk from a range of factors which ought to have been disclosed as relevant to investor risk when the company listed.

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