Corruption a Family Affair for Turkmen Chemical Chief’s Lackeys
The prosecutor general’s office of Turkmenistan has discovered the misappropriation of fertilizer during an inspection at the Turkmenhimiya state concern. The heads of two depots of the Dokunhimiya enterprise for the sale of mineral fertilizers in Ahal region have been arrested. Though Turkmenhimiya is riddled with corruption, it looks as though there will be no more prominent arrests or dismissals, all because the investigating prosecutors themselves have their snouts in the Turkmenhimiya trough.
Turkmen.news sources in one of the country’s security ministries reported that the head of the Dokunhimiya depot in Ahal region, whose first name is Hezret, and his deputy Bayram Atdayev, have already been arrested. The Baherden depot’s head and warehouse manager have also been arrested. All four are facing sentences of up to 12 years under Article 229 Part 4 of the Turkmenistan Criminal Code (“Misappropriation or embezzlement”).
Several more people from a depot in Lebap region are reported to be facing arrest. The theft of around 300 tons of chemicals was discovered there. Sources say that far greater shortfalls were found in Ahal region but specific figures have not been given.
It emerged at the end of November that an inspection was under way at Turkmenhimiya. The inspection began on the initiative of President Serdar Berdimuhamedov because of the failure of the state plan for the production of wheat and cotton. Agricultural leaders put the failure down to the lack of fertilizers, although Dokunhimiya supposedly provided the regions with their full complement of fertilizer, sources in the state concern told turkmen.news.
The source in one of Turkmenistan’s security ministries reported that checks are also under way at the Gallaonumleri (bread products) and Turkmenpagta (Turkmen cotton) production associations.
The arrested officials are minor links in the chain of corruption at the Turkmenhimiya state concern. After the president’s instructions, the prosecutors were obliged to find scapegoats – that’s the way things work in Turkmenistan. The big fish have escaped the net again, because the uniformed “fishermen” themselves feed off the state concern, as do the handlers in the National Security Ministry and government.
Taking part in the inspections at Turkmenhimiya are the head of the department supervising general oversight of the Prosecutor General’s Office, Suhrab Polatov, the department’s prosecutor Rejep Melayev, the head of general oversight Ayly Yusupov, the head of the department to investigate especially grave cases, Yagshimurat Soyunhanov, the head of the investigations department, Hanguly Hangulyyev, and deputies to the general prosecutor, Alymuhammet Akmammadov and Rahim Atayev.
“It’s not so long ago that each of these prosecutors were bringing requests and notes for the offloading of urea to the selfsame people that they are inspecting now,” a source told turkmen.news. “All these prosecutors made vast sums of money from this offloading. Every deputy prosecutor general has his pet firm and individual entrepreneurs whose interests he promotes. And it’s still Suhrab Polatov’s personal decision who works in the petrochemicals sector and in what job. He and Rejep Melayev take 2,000 to 3,000 dollars for finding someone a job.”
Moreover, Turkmenhimiya’s handler at the prosecutor’s office, Maksat Orazmuhamedov, is involved in corruption too. Former prosecutor’s office employees were also connected to corruption at Turkmenhimiya. The ex-head of the Balkan region prosecutor’s office, Oraz Rozyev, took bribes to turn a blind eye to infringements at the Garabogazkarbamid plant.
A bigwig in the prosecutor general’s office, Yagshimurat Soyunhanov, plays a special role. He does not hesitate to use his credentials to initiate an inspection or investigation and then to close the case himself for a bribe. Soyunhanov has relatives who have been convicted. Anyone else with such a dubious family history would not be able to hang on to a top job, but Soyunhanov has managed it somehow.
Relatives with criminal convictions pose no problem to another prosecutor, Hanguly Hangulyev. But he is untouchable, as he’s said to be a close friend of the president’s male cousins.
Turkmen.news first reported the inspections at Turkmenhimiya on November 30. This article caused uproar in Turkmenhimiya itself, the National Security Ministry, and the government, our source says. For example, a staff meeting was held at Turkmenhimiya during which everyone had to sign undertakings not to talk about work outside work. The state concern now receives members of the public only on the ground floor where closed-circuit TV is in place.
Turkmen.news sources inside Turkmenhimiya initially reported that the prosecutor general’s office was looking into the state company’s chairman, Niyazly Niyazlyev, and the head of the department for foreign economic relations, Murat Charyev.
“With the support of these officials some entrepreneurs bought urea for manats and then exported it for hard currency,” the source said.
He did not name the businessmen but the companies Caran Holdings and Ak Hazyna, which both belong to President Serdar Berdimuhamedov’s cousin, Hajymyrat Rejepov, are the main exporters of fertilizer from Turkmenistan. An investigation by turkmen.news and its partners in 2021 found that Rejepov’s companies export 100% of the output of the urea (carbamide) plant at Garabogaz.
According to observers, Niyazly Niyazlyev and Murat Charyev are not minor links but influential figures in the long chain of corruption. It doesn’t only concern the illegal trade in urea but also the conduct of tenders for enterprises that are part of Turkmenhimiya. As well as Niyazlyev and Charyev, the following are all links in the corruption chain: deputy chairmen of Turkmenhimiya Atageldi Nepesov and Murat Gurbandurdyev; the head of a specialized government department, Rustam Hamrayev; the acting head of Turkmenhimiya’s department for technical procurement, Gurban Annabayramov; the acting head of the department for the procurement of chemicals and chemical reagents, Yazgeldi Atanazarov; the head of the department for mechanics and energy production, Agajan Hemrayev; and the director of the polymer plant in Kiyanly, Serdar Hallyev.
The group has the protection of the senior criminal investigator in the National Security Ministry’s central administration, the NSM’s handler of the state concern, Serdar, and his boss, head of department at the ministry’s central administration, one Bayram. That is, the employees whose duty is to ensure that everything is above board in the state concern are themselves implicated in corruption.
According to sources, Nepesov works closely with Yazgeldi Atanazarov. In particular, they both receive bribes from companies that supply non-corrosive steel pipes for heat exchangers. Atanazarov covers up Nepesov’s role, and in return Nepesov helps him up the service career ladder.
Observers are suspicious about the result of a triple tender for the polymer plant in Kiyanly. In fall 2022 a famous Turkish company won the tender. According to sources, the company maintains contacts with Niyazlyev, Hamrayev, and Charyev. Officials at Turkmenhimiya had much closer relations with the Turkish representatives of the company than with other participants in the tender. At one of the sittings of the tender commission, Charyev openly defended the firm and even threatened the plant officials who did not like its tender proposal. As a result, the plant officials had to resign “at their own request.”
As for the chairman of Turkmenhimiya, Niyazly Niyazlyev, he controls the largest projects in all sectors. Iodine, urea – if it concerns a sum above a specific threshold, then the top boss personally takes the “cream.”
Niyazlyev is an example of the Turkmen Dream. He began his career as an ordinary secretary in the state company, but seemed keen to perform the role of a waiter. Niyazlyev always noticed which of the senior officials should be offered tea or coffee and who needed a more comfortable seat. By 2011 he had risen to be assistant to the head of the concern, and in 2014 was moved to the government as the expert officer on Turkmenhimiya.
In 2017 Muhammetmyrat Aydogdyev, who had been head of the state concern for a year, was moved to the role of deputy prime minister for industry, replacing Batyr Ereshov, who died suddenly. Someone had to replace Aydogdyev as “Turkmenistan’s chief chemist.” Sources say that the obliging expert officer Niyazlyev was in the right place at the right time. He was initially given the job on an acting basis, but was later confirmed in the post.
He wasted no time choosing reliable subordinates, ready to carry out any illegal instructions. In 2020, Murat Charyev became his “personal money man.” All businessmen who bought urea, potassium and other fertilizers had to pay kickbacks through Charyev to Niyazlyev. Tenders for all profitable projects were won only by those businessmen who undertook to pay Niyazlyev, Charyev, and Hamrayev. National Security Ministry officials Serdar and Bayram also have their share in this “business.”
Since the inspection was reported, Rustam Hamrayev, Serdar and Bayram have stopped visiting Turkmenhimiya, according to turkmen.news sources. Serdar and Bayram are expected to be dismissed from their posts at the National Security Ministry.
Hamrayev, meanwhile, makes his money on iodine. The deputy head of Turkmenhimiya, Murat Gurbandurdyev, controls the plants that produce iodine, while the ultimate beneficiary is Hamrayev, who does not sign any documentation in order to keep below the radar. Sources say that the government handler sees the Bereket iodine plant as his personal cash cow. Iodine that is off the books is sold for hard currency through a firm led by one of Hamrayev’s childhood friends. If anyone is caught red handed embezzling funds from the sale of iodine, it will be Gurbandurdyev.
To return to Niyazly Niyazlyev (whose cousin, Batyr Niyazlyev is Turkmenistan’s ambassador to Russia) – the final decision on Niyazlyev and the other members of the Turkmenhimiya leadership rests with President Serdar Berdimuhamedov and his father, regardless of what the prosecutor’s office does or does not find.
Perhaps he has escaped punishment this time, though a recent incident involving the shadowy shipment of dual-use items provided negative publicity for Turkmenhimiya. On November 13, the American Navy and Coast Guard arrested a vessel with a Yemeni crew carrying 100 tons of nitrogen fertilizers and 70 tonnes of ammonium perchlorate purchased in Iran. The fertilizers can be used to make explosives while the ammonium perchlorate can be used for rocket fuel. Photographs of the scene published by the U.S. Navy show sacks of urea bearing the words “Made in Turkmenistan.”
This is how it was revealed that Turkmenistan is evading sanctions and supplying petrochemical products to Iran that could be used for military purposes. For its part, Iran is supplying nitrogen to Yemen where a Houthi group is fighting the internationally recognized government.
This blow to Turkmenistan’s reputation as a “neutral state” is far from the only dubious episode in Turkmenhimiya’s history. Turkmen.news has often reported cases of embezzlement at the Garabogaz plant and disputes over the Garlyk mining and processing plant. Until recently, it might have appeared that all these fraudulent dealings were taking place somewhere on the periphery, far from the central administration. However, the current interest of the prosecutor’s office in Niyazly Niyazlyev shows that the problems exist at the highest level.
The turkmen.news source in one of the security ministries comments that the current wide-scale inspection at Turkmenhimiya is not the first time the prosecutor’s office “has put on a display of feverish activity.” In 2020, then prosecutor general Batyr Atdayev was supposed personally to sort out the oil and gas sector. But the then deputy prime minister, Muratgeldi Meredov, who was in charge of the sector, gave him a bribe of two million dollars. As a result, Atdayev “covered up” most of the infringements discovered, while in 2021 Meredov was moved from the post of deputy prime minister to a safe, low-key position at the Scientific research Institute of the Oil and Gas Complex of Turkmenistan.
Moreover, at that time the prosecutor general had a special trusted colleague, Serdar Gubayev, whose role was to cover up infringements in the oil and gas sector practically every day.
“Now that Atdayev has been removed from the post of prosecutor general, he remains his trusted representative,” the source says.
In summer 2022 Atdayev became deputy prime minister for trade, i.e. took another highly lucrative post, where he probably “earns” just as much as he did before. Unlike many of his colleagues in recent years, he has not had to swap his high office for a prison bed. Quite the reverse, as he has still has links with Gubayev and other former subordinates at the prosecutor’s office, so if necessary he himself can threaten his opponents with criminal charges.
Observers comment that President Serdar Berdimuhamedov’s desire to sort out the state companies inspires the respect of ordinary workers, but corruption cannot be defeated until bribery has been eradicated from the law-enforcement agencies. Even the president’s most radical demands will go unmet if they are carried out by people ready to turn a blind eye to any infringements for the appropriate sum.
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