The son of former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev lives in a £3.5 million mansion in the Borough of Reigate and Banstead in Surrey, despite being convicted in his homeland of the attempted murder of a UK citizen and corruption, a new briefing from Global Witness reveals today. The anonymous company that is being used to hide the ownership of the Surrey mansion can be linked to the alleged money-laundering scheme used to get the funds out of Kyrgyzstan.
The briefing, “Blood Red Carpet”, asks where the money used to buy the Surrey mansion came from, and highlights the worrying lack of regulation of hidden foreign ownership of UK property.
Bakiyev Jr. has been allowed to reside in the UK for almost five years while his asylum case is heard, despite the fact that the UK was not his first point of entry to the EU (1). This breaches the Dublin Agreement, an EU regulation on asylum seekers (2). Although the Home Office has refused to comment on his case (3), Bakiyev Jr. may be eligible for UK residency in June 2015 and citizenship in June 2016 (4).
“Maxim Bakiyev should have triggered many alarm bells, but instead it seems that we rolled out the red carpet. The UK has anti-money laundering checks, yet he appears to have been able to get his hands on a mansion fairly easily. After Libya’s Gaddafi and Nigeria’s James Ibori, there are lots of examples of the foreign leaders and their offspring stashing suspect money in the UK to escape justice at home,” said Chido Dunn of Global Witness. “There should be a full investigation into Maxim Bakiyev and the millions used to purchase this mansion - and the laws need to be changed to stop this happening in future.”
When his father was removed from power in a popular uprising in 2010, Bakiyev Jr. headed first to Latvia, and then on to the UK by private jet where he was detained by border officials before claiming asylum (5). During the time his father was President of Kyrgyzstan, Bakiyev Jr. is said to have stolen millions of dollars from the state (6) and ordered the murder of a British national who reportedly crossed him in a business deal (7). Bakiyev Jr. claims the charges made against him by the new Kyrgyz government are politically motivated (8).
Global Witness’ 2012 report Grave Secrecy examined suspicious financial transactions allegedly linked to Bakiyev Jr. and others, which the present Kyrgyz government believe relate to the theft of state money as the Bakiyev regime fell (9).
Bakiyev Jr. arrived in the UK in June 2010 (10) Fifteen days later, Limium Partners Limited (“Limium”) was registered in Belize (11). In August 2010, Limium purchased a luxurious property in Surrey on London’s commuter belt which boasts a library, bar and cinema (12). Bakiyev Jr. lives in this mansion.
It is unclear who the real owner of Limium is, as Belize is a well-known “secrecy jurisdiction” that refuses to divulge such information. What is known is that the agent that registered Limium also registered several companies that the Kyrgyz authorities state have links to both Bakiyev Jr. and the alleged money laundering scheme in the Kyrgyz Republic (13)
“Our property market is serving as a money-laundering vehicle for the world’s criminal and corrupt,” said Dunn. “But we can stop this happening. Real estate agents should be made to identify the real buyers of properties and the corruption risks they pose, rather than just the paper companies they hide behind. And the Land Registry should collect and publish the names of the real owners of companies that own property here,” said Dunn.
(1) Global Witness’s Grave Secrecy report, available in English, Russian and Kyrgyz here.
(2) Article 13, Regulation (EU) No 604/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 26 June 2013 establishing the criteria and mechanisms for determining the Member State responsible for examining an application for international protection lodged in one of the Member States by a third-country national or a stateless person (Dublin Agreement).
(3) Letter from UK Visas & Immigration to Global Witness dated 19 February 2015.
(4) Letter from UK Visas & Immigration to Global Witness dated 19 February 2015.
(5) See the Guardian for more; Global Witness’s Grave Secrecy report, available in English, Russian and Kyrgyz here.
(6) See http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jul/14/kyrgyzstan-president-atambayev-maxim-bakiyev; http://sputniknews.com/world/20100416/158613170.html; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-21958401; http://www.stolen-asset-recovery.com/blog/kyrgyzstans-dethroned-prince-has-american-assets-frozen; http://www.eurasianet.org/node/67263. http://www.interfax.com/newsinf.asp?id=545829. The victim survived the attempt, despite suffering injuries as a result of a gunshot wound.
(8) Global Witness’s Grave Secrecy report, available in English, Russian and Kyrgyz here.
(9) See the Guardian.
(10) Public Access Information on Limium obtained from the Belize registry.
(11) Land Registry title document (redacted).
(12)Photographs and information showing that Doug Singh of International Corporate Services and Doug Singh of the Ministry are the same: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doug_Singh; http://amandala.com.bz/news/will-the-new-police-minister-doug-singh-be-tough-on-crime/; and International Corporate Services website photo of D Singh, MD http://www.offshorebelize.com/; Grave Secrecy report, available in English, Russian and Kyrgyz here;
(13) Public Access Information on Limium obtained from the Belize registry.