Corruption a Family Affair for Turkmen Chemical Chief’s Lackeys has reported several times on corruption in the Turkmenhimiya state concern, but leader Niyazly Niyazlyev has always managed to come up smelling of roses. There’s no denying he does so with consummate skill. Neither economic losses from halting the export of urea (carbamide), nor subsequent extensive inspections by the prosecutor’s office have had an impact on the official’s career. He asks the toxic subordinate who acts as his “moneyman” to resign quietly, or employs someone with impressive connections in order to rely on his support in future. The appointment of his old friend Baymurat Annamamedov as deputy prime minister for construction and industry also played into his hands. Friendship’s all well and good, but there’s no harm in taking out insurance. So Turkmenhimiya’s cunning, clever leader built a whole network of informers in the government out of the members of a single family. Not only do they tip him off in good time on how to behave, they also help him in his favorite activity – theft. This report shows how the family of a former presidential candidate became Niyazlyev’s lackeys. 

Niyazly Niyazlyev (center), Serdar Jelilov (far right) and his children Dovletjan (far left) and Murat

Former presidential candidate Serdar Jelilov, and two of his sons are a shining example of the involvement of a whole family in corrupt schemes. Two and a half years ago the Jelilov brothers became Niyazlyev’s spies in all but name, providing him with comprehensive information about all the conversations in government and its plans. As the head of the Agency for Protection from Economic Risks at the Ministry of Finance and the Economy, Jelilov Senior for his part helps Niyazlyev push state tenders through to the necessary companies while other firms are scuppered.

Since September 2020, Dovletjan Jelilov, 33, a graduate of the Kazan National Technical Research University, has been a leading specialist in the chemical industry department of Turkmenistan’s cabinet of ministers. This is a very senior post for his age, and applicants receive the president’s personal confirmation. This might give the impression that Turkmenistan encourages young specialists, but in reality Dovletjan was put forward for this job by the head of Turkmenhimiya, not out of the goodness of his heart but for great personal gain.

Dovletjan keeps his head down at work. He doesn’t leave his office for days at a time, studying the in-house network. But he’s not just keeping his seat warm.

He’s gathering important information about upcoming decisions of the cabinet of ministers, and about conversations in planning meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Annamamedov, and finding out who Rustam Hamrayev, the government official responsible for Turkmenhimiya, is talking to and what about.

And how does Dovletjan Jelilov pass on all this valuable intelligence to Niyazlyev?

Very easily: through his older brother Murat Jelilov, who is assistant to the head of Turkmenhimiya. Murat took up this post straight after Niyazly Niyazlyev’s appointment in 2017.

But that’s not all. The brothers’ father, Serdar Jelilov, has a key position in terms of considering state tenders and projects. Jelilov Senior has all the tools at his disposal to promote those firms that give kickbacks and scupper the companies that refuse to do so. For example, three firms took part in a Turkmenhimiya tender, but one of them gained access to the people who have to be paid for a successful outcome. The Agency for Protection from Economic Risks, which is supposedly defending state finances, “independently” assesses all applicants.

At the request of the chairman of the concern, the head of the agency does his utmost to ensure the “right” firm be considered most suitable for the tender, while the competitors be found lacking in any and every respect possible. 

In other words, Niyazlyev receives valuable intelligence ahead of time from the Jelilov brothers and takes the opportunity to use it to his advantage right away – relying on the father of the family. And he is a reliable support, as Jelilov Senior feels obliged to Niyazlyev for finding jobs for two of his children at once.

Serdar Jelilov has a secure position in the Turkmen establishment. In 2017, as head of Ahal region’s main department for the economy and development, he was registered as one of the candidates for president.

As with all elections in Turkmenistan, no one had any doubt that the then head of state, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, would win. However, it’s already something of a tradition for a whole cast of extras to appear on the ballot, so that on paper at least the elections cannot be dismissed as a formality. 

And Jelilov became one of these extras. The official media published his manifesto, which, for example, referred to “ensuring the harmonious development of the sectors on which the state economy is based – energy, oil and gas, trade, tourism, chemicals, and agriculture and light industry too.” He even had meetings with the public. One of them took place in the Mekan palace in Ashgabat with OSCE observers present in order to convince the international community that the head of state is elected without bias in Turkmenistan and that no obstacles are created for other candidates.

If an official is allowed to take on such a delicate role, it means that the authorities have confidence in him and don’t expect him to do anything stupid. It looks as though Serdar Jelilov played his role as a presidential candidate to perfection, and as a result he was moved from his post as head of the regional economic department to lead the Agency for Protection from Economic Risks. His brother heads the health department in Ahal region. But it’s not at all typical for Turkmenistan to have four men from one family holding senior positions, two of which are appointed by the president personally.

This is exactly what economists and political scientists call a “conflict of interest.” It is accepted practice in developed countries to check that relatives do not hold connected posts: family ties should not turn into corrupt ones. On the whole this rule is observed in Turkmenistan, but does not apply to the president’s family. The Jelilovs have managed to become an exception though.

Connections with such a “respectable” family and the presence of his own spy in the government are of course good for Niyazly Niyazlyev’s pocket. But these connections become even more important when it’s a matter of Niyazlyev hanging on to his job and his freedom, not just lining his pockets. 

At the end of 2022 there were extensive inspections at Turkmenhimiya, as a result of which Murat Charyev, who was named as one of the main shady figures in the concern, was dismissed. Moreover, Niyazly Niyazlyev managed to persuade the head of the managerial board at Turkmenhimiya, Soyun Atabaev, to take responsibility for some of the infringements discovered by the prosecutor’s office. Atabaev is now under arrest, waiting for Niyazlyev to get him out in a mass amnesty. Hamrayev, the government official responsible for Turkmenhimiya, showed clear signs of anxiety at this time. Perhaps it was the timely receipt of intelligence via the Jelilovs that helped Niyazlyev get through those tough times practically unscathed.

Of course, the Jelilovs are not the only “reliable people” in the head of Turkmenhimiya’s entourage. has already written about the head of Turkmenhimiya’s department for foreign economic relations, Merdan Garlyev nicknamed the Hare, who is also very useful to Niyazlyev. The Hare is valued for his family ties: a close relative has a senior position in Turkmenistan’s Interior Ministry, while his brother Aziz Garlyev is an old friend of Hajymyrat (pictured) and Shamyrat Rejepov, who are nephews of Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov. Hajymyrat holds the monopoly on the export of Turkmen urea.

However, there’s nothing unusual in that. It’s the exception that proves the rule.

People who do not have a significant number of “useful connections” do not last long or reach the top jobs in the Turkmen system of government.

Observers say that it’s important not only to fire and punish individuals, however corrupt they may be, but also to work on changing the system itself.

The situation in Turkmenhimiya is gradually settling down after the anxiety caused by the inspections at the end of 2022. A source in one of the country’s law-enforcement and security agencies reported that the dismissed Murat Charyev recently had a clandestine meeting with the government official responsible for Turkmenhimiya, Rustam Hamrayev, on the outskirts of Ashgabat. He said that inspections are all very well, but since July tenders had piled up and kickbacks had already been received from them. They include tenders for the construction of enterprises to produce iodine, and to supply parts to the Tejen carbamide and Mary nitrogen plants, the Kiyanly polymer plant, and the plant producing synthetic gasoline from natural gas in Ahal region. Charyev is also being criticized for not keeping promises to dispatch urea. He has even had to change his cell phone numbers.

According to the source, Hamrayev was in shock at this conversation. He said that Deputy Prime Minister Baymurat Annamamedov was watching him like a hawk, looking for a reason to fire him. He said that even his patrons in the National Security Ministry, prosecutor’s office, and Foreign Ministry could not help him, especially considering this was a meeting with a disgraced former employee of Turkmenhimiya and on such a topic too. But the government official ended by promising Charyev that sooner or later all his protégés’ problems would be resolved. If he turns out to be right, we can conclude that after a brief storm in the Turkmenhimiya tea glass everything has returned to normal.

This information would seem to show beyond doubt that Niyazly Niyazlyev cannot remain in his post, like all the people mentioned in this report. But we get the impression that he is allowed to get away with an awful lot, including involving his associates and their entire families in corrupt schemes, and even President Serdar Berdimuhamedov is unable to get rid of him. As a result, pawns such as Soyun Atabaev, and slightly more significant pieces such as Murat Charyev are punished. It’s as though the president believes that they have all been fleecing this strategically important state concern for years without the knowledge of its chairman. At the end of the day, one of Turkmenistan’s major industrial sectors suffers. Budget income and the people’s standard of living depend on it directly. As long as people such as Niyazlyev remain at the helm of the chemicals sector, Turkmenistan is doomed to remain on the fringes of the world economy.