KNB Agent Orik VS Financial Police Agent Sanych

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Orda explains how a special service inside man tried to help catch corrupt financial police officials and what came of it.

$13 million in cash. According to former KNB employees, this amount was received from Almaty entrepreneurs by a financial police agent known as Sanych. His proxies collected it approximately between the fall of 2010 and the spring of 2011. The money was supposedly intended for high-ranking financial police heads not to prosecute entrepreneurs under the article “Economic smuggling.” 

This and much more came to the fore during the trial in the case of Sanych, i.e. Talgat Makhatov. He, along with four other defendants, is suspected of killing Almaty customs officer Medet Zhamashev. This happened in June 2012.

According to the prosecution, the customs officer was killed to cover up another crime. 

Orda.kz journalists have pieced together the events and what followed. 

Nothing New

The proceedings on the killing of customs officer Medet Zhamashev began in the specialized inter-district criminal court of Almaty in January 2024. They have been held without the main defendant, Makhatov, for the last three months as he is unwell. 

The court is currently examining the evidence in the case and questioning witnesses. Former KNB officers who created the special operation "Caravaners" in 2011 have already spoken. They did so to expose corrupt law enforcement officers operating at the Khorgos customs post. They told the court what information they had collected during Sanych's operational surveillance and expressed their opinion on the motive for killing the customs officer.

Zhamashev came to the attention of the KNB as part of this surveillance as a trusted person of Talgat Makhatov, who at that time was the direct cashier of the head of the financial police of the city of Almaty, Maksat Duisenov. Taking into account my 30 years of experience in the KNB, I am convinced that the audacious killing of Zhamashev was committed to conceal another crime in which Makhatov and his backers were involved,
said former deputy head of the fifth department of the KNB for the city of Almaty, Yerlan Zholshibekov. 
 Yerlan Zholshibekov. Photo by Orda.kz 

According to former KNB employees, Zhamashev was killed because he could have testified against corrupt financial police officers. This would have resulted in “Khorgos Case No. 1,” their investigation into extortion and smuggling on the Kazakh-Chinese border, falling apart. 

The financial police suspected officials of the customs department for the Almaty region and the central office of the National Security Committee of crimes. This includes those who invented the “Caravaners." In April 2014, all of them were found guilty by a specialized inter-district military court for criminal cases and sentenced to lengthy terms. 

Mahatov’s lawyers have drawn the court’s attention to this. They say that the verdict in the Khorgos case came into force 10 years ago. No one has overturned it or acquitted those convicted. There is also no procedural decision to the torture and fabrication of case materials claimed by committee officers.

You say that during the pre-trial investigation of the Khorgos case, there was torture of suspects, falsification of case materials, and assault of customs brokers. How can you confirm your words? Why do you speak so confidently about these crimes, as if you have convincing evidence of the financial police officers' guilt?  Mahatov’s lawyers addressed the committee officers. 

The officers responded that the illegal actions of the financial police during the investigation of "Khorgos Case No. 1" were documented in "Caravaners."

The National Security Committee was not allowed to complete its own investigation, however.

As for the torture and falsification of case materials by the financial police, special prosecutors are currently investigating two such cases. The brokers and entrepreneurs convicted in "Khorgos Case No. 1" have been recognized as victims. 

Dollars

The prosecution witness, Kanat Prinbekov, also appeared in court. He was a KNB informant and helped the creators of the "Caravaners" document the illegal activity of the financial police "cashier" and his confidant. 

 Kanat Prinbekov. Photo Orda.kz 

Prinbekov said that in 2010, he headed the customs center in Almaty, which operated as a public service center. The division united the activities of six customs posts and was engaged in customs clearance of goods. Employees initially provided the state with seven billion tenge in customs duties every month. They would later increase this figure to 16 billion per month. According to Prinbekov, the activities of the customs center attracted the attention of financial police agent Sanych.

Makhatov approached me under the guise of being a businessman. He asked for help with customs clearance of a furniture shipment traveling from China to Almaty. That's how we met him. However, after some time, he suddenly announced that not everything was going smoothly at my post; allegedly, my subordinates were letting in contraband from Türkiye and China, and I was not taking any countermeasures. He said he knew about this, as he is connected with the city financial police. I convinced him that I work with subordinates strictly within the law, but Makhatov was persistent,
 said Prinbekov. 

According to him, Sanych soon began talking to him in a raised voice. 

Makhatov threatened me that he would block the road, that is, he would not allow trucks with goods from China to my post. I pretended not to pay mind to his threats. And the next day I received a letter from the deputy head of the financial police of Almaty about the holding of vehicles coming from China. They were supposed to go through customs clearance in our center, but they were stuck then. I realized that this was blackmail, and turned to my friend, KNB officer Zhakayev,  says Prinbekov. 

According to the witness, Talgat Zhakayev, the head of the fifth department of the KNB, introduced Prinbekov to his colleague, Irlan Abdrakhmanov, the head of the fourth department. The officers suggested Prinbekov write a statement against the financial police. 

Kanat, out of a sense of civic consciousness, voluntarily offered to help the KNB officers expose financial police officers. They agreed. It was decided that he would work directly with the deputy head of the fifth department of the DKNB for the city, Yerlan Zholshibekov. Zhoslshibekov joined the special operation “Caravaners” task force. In the KNB case materials, Prinbekov went by Orik. 

I began to record all my conversations with Mahatov. Then, I realized that simulating criminal activity requires money. The committee officers did not have it at that time; more precisely, they needed time to draw up the appropriate application, for its approval, and receive the funds. Therefore, I allocated 200 thousand dollars from my personal savings with the condition that they would be returned to me after the investigation of the criminal case was completed,
 says Prinbekov. 

According to the former customs officer, the dollars were intended for the financial police in exchange for the release of arrested trucks. He could not contact them directly, so he gave the money to Makhatov’s confidant, Medet Zhamashev. 

Makhatov introduced me to Medet Zhamashev, an employee of the city customs department. He said that he would be our liaison and help resolve issues with customs clearance of smuggled cargo. Medet gave me a cell phone and asked me to call him only from it. Later, unexpectedly for me, he became my subordinate. I didn’t hire him to work at the customs center, someone appointed him, bypassing me,
 says Prinbekov. 

According to him, he met with Zhamashev twice in Almaty. Each time gave him $100 thousand in cash. Orik recorded both meetings with a hidden video camera.

During the first money transfer, I cautiously asked Medet to count it out loud and explain who it was intended for and for what purpose. He did not sense the trick and said everything. The next day, Makhatov called me with questions. He must have suspected something was wrong because he asked me to give Medet the remaining $100,000 the next time silently. That's what I did. 

According to Prinbekov, the leadership of the Almaty city financial police somehow found out about the cooperation with the KNB. A criminal case was opened against him for economic smuggling and legalizing property acquired through criminal means. The court found him guilty and sentenced him to five years in prison, confiscating a million dollars in a deposit.

Mahatov’s lawyers asked the prosecution witness where he, a civil servant, got 200 thousand dollars to imitate criminal activities and a million dollars in his bank account. Prinbekov explained that he used to be a successful entrepreneur in the construction business. Before becoming a civil servant, he sold his shares and deposited the proceeds of 1 million 200 thousand dollars. Orik noted that he began his career as an ordinary specialist in government agencies. Over the years, he worked his way up to the custom center's head position. 

The investigative bodies of the financial police destroyed my income declaration, which indicated the source of my savings. The court, unfortunately, did not take this into account, so my dollars were confiscated,  Prinbekov said. 

Makhatov's lawyers began to press him, accusing him of provocation and bribing an official. They wanted to know how he could have known that Makhatov had received $200,000. Perhaps the money had not reached Sanych but ended up in someone else's pocket. Prinbekov replied that he had imitated criminal activity in accordance with the RK Law "On Operational Investigative Activities." 

Incidentally, Makhatov had also imitated criminal activity in 2010-2011, when he was infiltrating a smuggling community. According to Orik, it was clear from telephone conversations between him and Zhamashev that he had received the money. 

A Leak

According to former committee officers, in April 2011, the financial police somehow learned that the KNB was conducting covert operational activities against them. They did not know the details.

They, therefore, took the initiative, quickly launching “Khorgos Case No. 1” and detaining Zhakayev and Abdrakhmanov, the initiators and organizers of the special operation “Caravaners,” and their colleague Bakhytbek Kurmanaliev. 

The details of the secret KNB most likely leaked after Irlan Abdrakhmanov told the head of the special prosecutor's office, Ulugbek Patsayev, about them. Having learned that the "Khorgos case" had been transferred from the financial police to the Prosecutor General's Office, Abdrakhmanov believed that the investigation would now proceed objectively and impartially. Therefore, he confidentially told Patsayev about the "Caravaners," counting on his understanding. 

At the end of 2011, I filed a petition with the Almaty city prosecutor's office to share some details about the "Caravaners." I was questioned by special prosecutor Ulugbek Patsayev and his assistant Aday Akim. In secrecy, I told them all the information I knew, hoping for a response in the form of an objective investigation. After my interrogation, Patsayev requested the materials of the "Caravaners," so I had hope for a successful outcome of the case, says former head of the fourth department of the KNB Irlan Abdrakhmanov. 
 Irlan Abdrakhmanov. Photo by Orda.kz 

  According to him, he waited calmly until he heard what testimony Makhatov was giving.

Analyzing his testimony, I came to the conclusion that he was aware of the materials of "Caravaners." Makhatov used terms that only KNB operatives use in their work. It was a shock for me. I realized that he was aware of our operational surveillance. They disclosed to him the information that I gave in secret, trying to protect myself and provide an alibi for the time that I was accused of committing the crime, says Abdrakhmanov.

According to the former committee officers, the disclosure of secret information cost Medet Zhamashev's life, as he was a dangerous witness.

I had two key witnesses in the “Caravaners” - Prinbekov and Zhamashev. The first one was our confidential informant, so he was under the protection of the KNB special forces. The second was the link with Makhatov, but no one was protecting him, so they killed him,  says Abdrakhmanov. 

Other committee officers told the court that Sanych, through his proxies - Kairbayev and Otarbayev - collected $13 million from Almaty entrepreneurs. This fact was documented in the “Caravaners” case. The money was intended for the leadership of the financial police for not prosecuting entrepreneurs under the article “Economic smuggling.” They were used in the Khorgos case as evidence but then disappeared along with video recordings of their transfer to Mahatov.

During the main trial in the military court, Judge Sovetkhan Sakenov noticed that in the criminal case, there were only audio recordings of the negotiations between the financial police agent and the suspect Otarbayev, but there were no video recordings of the transfer of money itself. 13 million dollars disappeared without a trace,Zholshibekov said.  

Talgat Zhakayev supplemented the story of his former deputy with information that interested journalists covering the trial of the financial police “cashier”. 

In August 2011, Makhatov met with the deputy KNB chairperson, Gosman Amrin, during which he told about the falsification of the materials of the 'Khorgos case' and about the amounts of money he received from Kairbayev, but which were not included in the case. With the sanction of the prosecutor general, this meeting was recorded, and later it underwent a phonographic examination, which established that no psychological pressure was exerted on Makhatov. He told everything on his own initiative. This recording was given to Patsayev, but he did not take any measures to expose the guilty parties. He attached it to another case that had nothing to do with 'Khorgos', the witness said.
Talgat Zhakaev. Photo by Orda.kz

No one explained in court why Makhatov, on his own initiative, met with the deputy head of the National Security Committee and betrayed his backers. One can only guess that he was probably dissatisfied with many things in his relations with them, as he defected to the camp of their competitors. 

At the end of the court hearing, the former committee officers noted that no procedural decision had been made on their secret case, "Caravaners." The special prosecutor attached four materials they had collected to a completely different case, where they disappeared. 

Patsayev was also sent materials on the torture of suspects Kairbaev and Otarbaev, and they were also attached to another case. Unfortunately, our legislation allows materials from one case to be dissolved in other, related cases, which no one asks about later,  Zholshibekov noted. 


From The Editorial Office

We will be monitoring the progress of the trial of Medet Zhamashev's killing It has recently been conducted only offline. As soon as Makhatov appears in the courtroom and gives evidence, we will tell his version of the events that took place in 2011-2012. We will also listen to the four other defendants and defense witnesses.

Original Author: Zhanar Kusanova

DISCLAIMER: This is a translated piece. The text has been modified, the content is the same. Please refer to the original piece in Russian posted on 28/06/24 for accuracy.