Corruption a Family Affair for Turkmen Chemical Chief’s Lackeys
On February 10 the Cabinet of Ministers held a meeting to review the results of 2022, and the heads of the various industrial sectors all managed to keep their heads below the parapet. While the carefully crafted reports gave the “right” figures, they knew that information about the real state of affairs in the oil and gas and chemical sectors would nonetheless reach the president, Serdar Berdimuhamedov.
The head of state is displeased that he is not given a real picture of what is going on. Several officials in security have already suffered as a result. According to turkmen.news’ sources in the country’s government, the deputy minister of national security, Guvanch Gochov, and head of the ministry’s department for Ashgabat, Azat Metjiyev, were dismissed at the end of 2022 for their involvement in corrupt schemes in the chemicals sector and for lobbying for the interests of specific firms.
The national security minister himself, Gurbanmyrat Annayev, was dismissed recently. True, he has already been appointed to a new position – the former minister is head of the personnel department at the Presidential Security Service.
Dismissal from the National Security Ministry does not always mean the end of a career. For many it is only the beginning. Azat Atayev (pictured), known in Turkmenhimiya by his nickname Reshala (Mr Fix-It), is a good example. He worked in the National Security Ministry for several years, then became head of the private firm Bir Kuvvat. Atayev is close to the head of Turkmenhimiya, Niyazly Niyazlyev, and the government member responsible for the state company, Rustam Hamrayev. This helped him to buy a large quantity of urea and iodine for manats, then to take it all abroad and sell it for hard currency. Moreover, Azat Atayev is now building a wharf at Turkmenbashi. Vessels that dock there in future will be paying for Atayev’s services.
It’s not yet clear what kind of person he really is and who is behind him. But it’s impossible to do business successfully in Turkmenistan without good “backing.”
Sources say that Ataev is connected to a trusted official at Turkmenhimiya, Yuriy Maramuha (pictured below), who has been variously head of the department for mineral fertilizers and deputy head of the department for investment and capital construction. He has been mired in corruption ever since the construction of the Garlyk mining and processing plant. In exchange for kickbacks, Maramuha concealed the theft of budget funds during construction, when false reporting allowed the Belarusians to receive more money than they should have done. One of the Belarusians’ ways of saying “thank you” was to employ his son to handle visa issues for their employees. Through the son they had influence on the father too.
The Garlyk plant is practically not operating and remains the subject of a legal dispute between Turkmenistan and Belarus. It was Yuriy Maramuha, Rustam Hamrayev (at present head of the board of management of the Turkmenkaliy [Turkmen potassium] joint-stock company, part of the Turkmenhimiya state concern), and Agajan Hemrayev, head of the department of engineering and energy, that accepted the new plant from the Belarusians and signed the handover certificate. But none of the officials has been punished for the plant’s failure: Hamrayev got promoted, while Maramuha and Hemrayev are still on the chemicals fiddle.
During the recent inspections at Turkmenhimiya by the prosecutor’s office, businessman Azat Atayev avoided criminal prosecution thanks to his connections in the law-enforcement agencies.
Meanwhile, setbacks continue in the industrial sector, such as the sharp drop in quality of output at the Ahal plant producing synthetic gasoline from natural gas and the halt to gas supplies from the Galkynysh field. Turkmen.news sources report that in January an attempt was made to restart the polymer plant at Kiyanly, which was commissioned in 2018, but has now practically stopped working. And the attempt failed.
The reason for the failure was shoddy heat exchange equipment. Cheap Chinese-produced pipes had been installed, and had been welded badly too. The plant operated for a couple of days then stopped, as the cooling system had broken down.
The government meeting could have discussed all this, but instead it considered reports that bore only a fleeting resemblance to reality. Niyazly Niyazlyev, head of procurement at Turkmenhimiya Murat Charyev, Turkmengaz chairman Batyr Amanov, and his deputy Atamurat Charyev, Turkmennebit (Turkmen oil) head Guvanch Agajanov, and other leading figures in the oil and gas sector all managed to hang on to their posts. Though Agajanov had been hoping to become deputy prime minister, according to some reports. Murat Charyev has his plans: now the cabinet meeting is over, he wants to complete the tender for the Kiyanly plant where he is lobbying for a well-known Turkish firm, and then resign and go into private business like Azat Ataev…
The title of this report was chosen deliberately: the condition of Turkmenistan’s gas and chemicals industry recalls a cancerous disease. Cancer is the uncontrolled multiplication of cells that have “forgotten” they should be working for the good of the whole organism and are concerned only about their own well-being. Judging from the behavior of the corrupt “cells” in Turkmenistan, the disease is already critical. But in our case the disease is incurable without political will and urgent chemotherapy.
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