Gone with the Wind? Turkmen Plant Puts Major Shortfall of Urea Down to “Natural Factors”

A substantial quantity of urea is missing from Turkmenistan’s flagship chemical plant Garabogazkarbamid. An inspection has confirmed the shortfall, which was initially revealed in a series of reports by turkmen.news. The reports were based on information from several sources and internal documents at turkmen.news’ disposal. The plant’s management said that half the losses of urea, also known as carbamide, were caused by “natural factors.”

Garabogazkarbamid plant in Turkmenistan. Photo credit: Turkmenhimiya

Turkmen.news sources report that the Balkan region prosecutor’s office sent a senior inspector from the region’s Main Department of Finance and the Economy, M. Nurmuradov, to the plant. The inspection lasted for 72 days — from August 17 to October 29, 2021. Its main result was uncovering the disappearance of 3,313 tons 618 kilograms of urea from the finished products department.

However, no sanctions were taken against the management of the plant. Instead, director Berdimurad Jumayev, finished products head Aymurat Saparov and other senior figures were given the opportunity to explain the situation. Having brought together many of the plant’s internal commissions (and even involving the Turkmenistan Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Chemistry), they concluded that 1,199 tons 368 kilograms of urea had disappeared because of “natural factors.” Supposedly, the mineral was blown away by the wind or lost in some other way during bagging, transporting and loading.

The commissions concluded that Saparov was to blame for the loss of the remaining 2,163 tons 685 kilograms. This quantity of urea has a market value of more than 1.2 million manats. But it is not known what sanctions, if any, were imposed on the head of the department. According to sources, he was not even reprimanded. The material loss has not been compensated for either.

It is the second time this shortfall has been revealed. Our first report on the subject said that the loss of 3,500 tons of carbamide had been discovered by a commission in the first half of 2021. It was established that the carbamide had disappeared gradually, starting in 2019. It was in that year that Jumayev appointed Saparov head of the finished products department. But on that first occasion no explanation was required from the management. They were told verbally of the need to compensate for the shortfall within five months.  

The same Aymurat Saparov has another plum job — he is head of the plant’s garage and vehicle fleet. It is on his instruction that the real volumes of urea shipped from the plant were significantly reduced. Turkmen.news sources report that Saparov doesn’t hold back in this post either. He busily sells parts, lubricating oils, gas and vehicle batteries under the counter. The garage also increases the mileage of the plant’s vehicles. The “excess” gas is at Saparov’s disposal.

But inspector Nurmuradov was not interested in this area of the top manager’s work, nor in other facts mentioned in the reports. He did not even visit the garage. The disappearance of 3,500 tons of the finished product was not considered a sufficiently important offense. All the managers remain in their jobs.

Turkmen.news sources say that all the earlier inspections at the plant ended pretty much the same way. While the Garabogazkarbamid plant officially belongs to the Turkmenhimiya state concern, it is to all intents and purposes controlled by Hajymyrat Rejepov, President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s nephew. His companies Caran Holdings LP and Ak Hazyna have monopolized the export of urea. Observers believe this is the reason the Balkan region prosecutor’s office and local finance and economic department have little influence over the plant.

The Garabogazkarbamid plant was built by Japan’s Mitsubishi Corporation and Turkey’s Gap Insaat at a cost of more than 1.57 billion U.S. dollars. President Berdimuhamedov opened the plant in September 2018. It is the largest urea plant in Central Asia.