‘His Murder Is Obligatory’: Man Who Exposed Kyrgyz Smuggling Scheme has Hunted through Contract Killers

One year in the past this week, Aierken Saimaiti, a self-confessed cash launderer, become gunned down in an Istanbul cafe.

Credit: Svetlana Tiourina

Turkish police have pointed to non secular extremism because of the cause for the crime. Two of the 4 alleged killers, who stay in custody pending trial, were defined via way of means of police as Islamist militants who stated they murdered Saimaiti because “he become now no longer a Muslim.”

There had been already sufficient motives to suspect that this becomes now no longer the entire story.

Before his assassination-fashion shooting, the 37-yr-antique Chinese-born Uighur had furnished reporters with a trove of data testifying to his position in funneling loads of tens of thousands and thousands of bucks out of Kyrgyzstan for a secretive smuggling syndicate.

 

Credit: Aierken Saimaiti
Aierken Saimaiti.

Ensuing investigations with the aid of using RFE/RL’s Radio Azattyk, OCCRP, and Kloop implicated Raimbek Matraimov, the Central Asian country’s former deputy customs chief, and Khabibula Abdukadyr, the shipment magnate with whom he did business, as being on the coronary heart of the corruption Saimaiti discovered.

The memories triggered anti-corruption protests in Kyrgyzstan and in the end contributed to a famous uprising in the wake of the remaining month’s parliamentary elections.

Before his murder, an anxious Saimaiti advised newshounds that he have been warned now no longer to show any extra of Matraimov’s secrets. “If you percentage them, we can kill you,” he recalled being advised.

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Now, Turkish police statistics leaked to newshounds, which include a declaration made with the aid of using Saimaiti’s widow and transcripts of his alleged killers’ interrogations, provide extra info that shed extreme doubt on the extremism narrative.

According to the person who pulled the trigger, he became employed with the aid of using a militant to perform a contract-fashion killing. The gunman stated the spiritual pretext has been fed to him with the aid of using this man. Moreover, the statistics display that only a day after the murder, Saimaiti’s wife, Wufuli Bumailiyamu, pointed to Matraimov and Abdukadyr, the guys whose affairs her husband had discovered to journalists because the orchestrators of the killing.

“He advised me if something takes place to him, I have to inform these kinds of occasions to the police, and that he might be killed with the aid of using those people,” Bumailiyamu stated.

Credit: OCCRP
Raimbek Matraimov.

The quantity to which the Turkish police have pursued those leads, or can also additionally but pursue them, is unclear. The information does display that the police requested the alleged gunman approximately Abdukadyr, however, he stated he did now no longer recognize him.

When reached via way of means of reporters, Bumailiyamu did now no longer deny the authenticity of the testimony, however, declined to touch upon Matraimov or Abdukadyr. Neither Abdukadyr nor Turkish police answered requests for comment.

In an e-mail to reporters, Matraimov stated he had “no connection” with Saimaiti’s loss of life and claimed that the Turkish police had already delivered the ones accountable to justice, even though there’s no indication that tribulation has taken place. He additionally claimed that even though he has visited Istanbul because of the murder, he changed into by no means interrogated via way of means of the Turkish police.

Verifying the Leak

The Turkish police files on which this tale is primarily based totally had been leaked to journalists anonymously, even though numerous had been also posted in a Kyrgyzstan-centered Facebook institution in early October.

Though Turkish police did now no longer reply to inquiries approximately the files, journalists had been capable of independently confirm plenty of the facts they contain.

A record approximately the Saimaiti homicide investigation launched with the aid of using the Istanbul police department in March 2020 fits information the leaked files, which includes equal quotes.

That record cites Bumailiyamu as attesting that her murdered husband “had problems” with men, one with a “senior position” in Kyrgyzstan, even though it does now no longer point out Matraimov with the aid of using the name.

Another record posted with the aid of using a Kyrgyz parliamentary fee convened to take a look at the situations of Saimaiti’s homicide presents similarly proof of the leaked records’ authenticity. The record cites the tales of the 4 suspects which the fee obtained from the Turkish police — and several key information fit the leaked records.

The record did now no longer implicate Matraimov or Abdukadyr the homicide, and critics accused the fee of whitewashing Matraimov’s position in corrupt schemes. It’s now no longer clean whether or not its participants had to get admission to to the testimony with the aid of using Saimaiti’s wife.

Kyrgyzstan’s deputy indoors minister cautioned in June that Turkey turned into withholding “complete facts” approximately the homicide investigation.

A Man Named ‘Adem’

On November 12, 2019, much less than forty-eight hours after Saimaiti’s homicide, police in the southern Turkish metropolis of Adana introduced that guys diagnosed as Kyrgyz citizens, Huseyin Ahmetaliyev and Abdullah Enver, in addition to a Syrian citizen, were arrested on suspicion of involvement the slaying.

The Kyrgyz authorities have denied that Ahmetaliyev and Enver are Kyrgyz citizens.

The 3 guys were detained even as trying to pass the border into Syria, the police introduced. A fourth suspect changed into later arrested after the alleged homicide weapon changed into determined in his home.

In the next interview with Radio Azattyk, Adnan Kilic, a senior Adana police legitimate on the time, stated that Ahmetaliyev and Enver had hyperlinks to militant Islamic corporations in Syria. He additionally advised reporters the purported cause for Saimaiti’s killing: the victim’s loss of piety.

“During the interrogation, they stated that they killed [Saimaiti] due to the fact he wasn’t a Muslim,” Kilic stated.

But in line with his very own testimony, the accused killer did now no longer recognize Saimaiti and changed into in reality sporting out an agreement hit. The purported nonsecular cause, they stated, changed into given to them through a Syria-primarily based totally militant going through the name “Adem,” whom they defined because of the organizer of the operation.

“When I requested why we want to kill him, [Adem] stated: ‘He isn’t always Muslim, he’s an infidel, his homicide is necessary,’” Enver, the accused gunman, advised Turkish police.

He stated that Adem performed a hands-on function in organizing the killing, from the budget right all the way down to coordinating taxi rides and that Adem told him to tour to Istanbul to fulfill Ahmetaliyev, the alternative conspirator. Adem additionally furnished Saimaiti’s photograph, address, and license plate number, in addition to $1,500 “for the road,” Enver stated. Adem additionally promised the 2 guys $50,000 every to perform the hit.

Reporters have been not able to set up Adem’s authentic identity. Enver defined him as an Uzbek national, round 28 years old, clean-shaven with darkish skin. Adem seemed to be well-off financially and had a spouse and at least one, child.

Enver advised police that he had met Adem at a militant schooling camp in Syria run through a set known as Katiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad (“Brigade of Monotheism and Holy War”). Composed normally of Uzbeks and guys from different Central Asian nations, the agency had formerly pledged allegiance to the Al-Nusra Front, the Syrian associate of Al-Qaeda.

Enver defined Adem as an “administrative manager” with the terrorist institution, coping with troubles along with the acquisition of food, drinks, and firearms. Enver stated that he himself had spent around 5 years with the institution in Syria, receiving guns schooling.

The Osh Connection

The chief of Katiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad changed into Sirojiddin Mukhtarov, a 30-year-vintage local of Kyrgyzstan additionally called Abu Salah who has been accused of masterminding terrorist attacks: an August 2016 suicide bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Bishkek and an April 2017 subway bombing in Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Mukhtarov hails from the village of Kashgar-Kyshtak the Kara-Suu district of Kyrgyzstan’s Osh region, which has long been a stronghold for the Matraimov family. (One of the opposite accused conspirators in Saimaiti’s killing, Ahmetaliyev, is likewise from Osh, in line with his testimony.)

Mukhtarov stepped down because the group’s chief in 2019, in line with a U.N. Security Council document.

The Killing

Enver stated he arrived in Istanbul 3 weeks earlier than killing Saimaiti, and that upon his arrival, his alleged accomplice, Ahmetaliyev, already had statistics approximately their target.

He stated that they tracked Saimaiti’s actions for round weeks.

The pair aborted their preliminary assassination try after you have bloodless feet, Enver testified. After that incident, he stated, they referred to as Adem to inform him of what had happened.

Credit: Screenshot from Bishkek24 Video A still from a security camera recording shows Saimaiti’s shooting.

“He said: ‘Shoot him. If you don’t shoot, go back the cash and the cash that became spent on you.’ And we replied: “OK, we are able to kill him.”

On the night of November 10, 2019, they accompanied Saimaiti to the Kunlun Hotel, in which he became sitting at an of doors cafe with friends, certainly considered one among whom became the hotel’s owner.

It became Enver’s process to perform the shooting, whilst Ahmetaliyev waited withinside the getaway car. According to Enver’s interrogation, he over again had qualms, however, determined to press on.

Security digital digicam footage indicates him descending the steps of the out of doors cafe in the direction of Saimaiti quickly after eight p.m., elevating his weapon, and firing numerous times. He then sprints returned up the steps and climbs right into a black automobile that speeds away.

“I can’t do forget how usually I shot him,” Enver instructed the police.

What Saimaiti Knew
Credit: OCCRP
Aierken Saimaiti’s last meeting with a journalist in Istanbul.

If Enver’s timeline is accurate, Saimaiti’s very last assembly with newshounds, in overdue October 2019, came about simply as his assassins picked up his trail.

In the assembly, which came about at Istanbul’s high-priced Ciragan Palace hotel, he exceeded over some other pile of files that showed what he was announcing for a few times. They confirmed how he stressed cash to locations the world over on behalf of his employer, Abdukadyr, the use of fake pretenses to hide the illicit nature of the proceeds — which he stated covered bribes to Matraimov.

Matraimov and Saimaiti

In an electronic mail to newshounds, Matraimov denied ever having any “economic or different contacts with Aierken Saimaiti.”

“I am uninterested in repeating that I had no reference to the topics of your investigation,” he wrote.

Previous investigations on this collection confirmed that many of the files Saimaiti furnished to newshounds have been economic statements and cord switch facts testifying to masses of lots of bucks flowing to the Matraimov own circle of relatives foundation and bills for luxurious actual estate

He failed to reveal up for a next assembly, at which he had promised to offer greater files that could similarly implicate Matraimov. Initially, he gave no reason for his absence. Later, he stated that he had turned out to be too nervous to continue and that the threats towards him were mounting. He did now no longer meet with newshounds once earlier than he becomes killed, even though he saved in contact and endured to offer different information.

In her testimony to Turkish police, Saimaiti’s widow Bumailiyamu recalled the preceding yr as a length of growing strain on her husband.

Credit: OCCRP
Khabibula Abdukadyr (right), a Chinese-born Uighur businessman with a Kazakh passport, has high-level political connections across Central Asia and significant assets in the E.U. and the United Arab Emirates. This is one of the few known photos of him.

In her telling, Matraimov and Abdukadyr were “threatening my husband with loss of life all of the time” over a monetary dispute.

Saimaiti had handed a preliminary tranche of monetary files to a Radio Azattyk reporter in advance withinside the year. The software posted preliminary research in May 2019.

“After the interview,” Bumailiyamu instructed police, “the threats began out to increase.”

She additionally alleged that Matraimov and Abdukadyr were “behind” the homicide of a chum of her husband’s, whose certain and battered corpse became discovered withinside the trunk of his personal automobile at Bishkek’s Manas International Airport 3 weeks earlier than Saimaiti’s homicide.

“Very Close Friends”

When she noted Matraimov and Abdukadyr, Saimaiti’s widow did now no longer use their criminal names.

She noted Matraimov as “Rahim,” a Turkish rendering of the shortened model of his first call, and mistakenly known as him Kyrgyzstan’s “customs minister at that time.” (Matraimov became truly serving as deputy customs leader between 2015 and 2017.)

In the transcript of her statements, she refers to Abdukadyr as “Ebibullah Abdulkadar Pehlivan” — a likely mistyped model of Abdukadyr’s call that blanketed a Turkish model of the word “Palvan,” that’s regularly used as a closing call through his family. (Abdukadyr’s instant loved ones are acknowledged to apply numerous closing names, which includes Hadeer, Palvan, and Aibibula.)

But she noted the 2 guys, she appeared nicely aware of the character of her husband’s enterprise with them.

She defined the 2 guys as “proprietors of shipment corporations in Kyrgyzstan” and “very near buddies and enterprise partners.”

“My husband became doing those people’s cash transfers to Dubai, Germany, the United Kingdom, and America,” she instructed the police.

While Bumailiyamu did now no longer deliver the friend’s call withinside the testimony leaked to reporters, she became certainly relating to the case of Khusan Kerimov, a 39-year-antique taxi driving force who labored as a coins courier for Saimaiti.

Credit: Aierken Saimaiti
A photo provided by Saimaiti of stacks of U.S. dollars in preparation for transport by one of his cash couriers.

Kerimov frequently ferried huge sums of cash in his carry-on luggage on flights from Kyrgyzstan to Turkey, Saimaiti instructed reporters. On the night time the courier went missing, he became imagined to deliver $1.6 million in coins to Saimaiti in Istanbul however in no way arrived. The Kyrgyz government has charged 4 guys in reference to Kerimov’s murder, together with natives of Osh who continue to be a huge, in line with a Kyrgyz parliamentary fee record launched in June.

“The person, who became a pal of my husband and taking our coins to Turkey, became murdered and our cash became stolen on the airport,” Saimaiti’s spouse instructed Turkish police.

“My husband additionally stated the ones human beings are in the back of this,” she added, regarding Matraimov and Abdukadyr.

In his email to reporters, Matraimov denied any involvement in Kerimov’s death, pronouncing that he had handiest discovered his call from information reports.

As mentioned in preceding research on this series, while couriers like Kerimov delivered coins to Istanbul for Saimaiti, they once in a while declared it as belonging to an Abdukadyr corporation referred to as Palvan İnşaat Turizm Lojistik Sanayi Ticaret Limited.

Within weeks of the Istanbul police liberating their precis of the Saimaiti research, this corporation made a donation of nearly $170,000 to a marketing campaign released via way of means of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to assist needy residents at some stage in the coronavirus crisis. The corporation subsequently has become one of the marketing campaign’s pinnacle donors.

The Turkish Ministry of Family, Labour, and Social Services, which oversees the charity marketing campaign, did now no longer reply to a request for touch upon the donation via way of means of Abdukadyr’s corporation and what, if any, due diligence became performed concerning the firm.

OCCRP / TechConflict.Com

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