The son of Kyrgyzstan’s ousted president has been arrested in London after the United States requested his extradition, the Kyrgyz presidency and British and US diplomats say.
Former top official Maxim Bakiyev was seeking asylum in Britain after his father Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted in 2010 in violent street protests in the volatile Central Asian country.
British police said Bakiyev, 34, was arrested by extradition officers on the request of US authorities, who wanted to question him for alleged involvement in fraud. He had voluntarily visited a police station in central London by appointment.
“At the request of Kyrgyz and American sides, British law enforcement authorities arrested Maxim Kurmanbekovich Bakiyev on the morning of October 12 in London on charges of serious crimes,” said a statement posted late on Friday on the Kyrgyz president’s website.
Nicknamed “the Prince” for his penchant for luxury, the younger son of Kyrgyzstan’s president headed the ex-Soviet country’s Central Agency for Development after being appointed by his father.
He also handled fuel supply contracts for the Manas US airbase in Kyrgyzstan that is key to American military operations in Afghanistan.
In a statement on Saturday, the US embassy in Kyrgyzstan said that Maxim Bakiyev was suspected of “alleged violation of US laws”.
“The United States has requested the extradition of Mr Bakiyev from the United Kingdom to face trial in US federal court on serious charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and obstruction of justice,” it said.
“If convicted, Mr Bakiyev could face a lengthy sentence.”
The British embassy in Kyrgyzstan also released a statement confirming Bakiyev’s arrest and the US extradition request.
“We are conscious that… the leadership and people of Kyrgyzstan are keen to ensure that those accused of past abuses of power are brought before the courts to answer allegations against them,” it said.
Kyrgyzstan has no extradition treaty with Britain, but will “demand the extradition of Bakiyev Junior,” the head of the Kyrgyz presidency’s foreign policy department, Sapar Isakov, told journalists.
However a foreign ministry spokesman, Nurzhigit Kadyrbekov, told the AFP news agency that the lack of a treaty with Britain meant that “extraditing him to Kyrgyzstan is legally impossible”.
“The question is now being resolved of Bakiyev Junior’s extradition to the United States,” he said.
Maxim Bakiyev’s Interpol listing says that he is wanted for fraud by a Bishkek city district court.
He arrived in Britain in June 2010 and applied for asylum, saying that he had been forced into exile on fear of his life.
His father Kurmanbek Bakiyev came to power in the so-called Tulip Revolution in 2005 but fled after he was ousted in a popular uprising and is now living under official protection in Belarus.
Kyrgyzstan is also seeking to arrest him on charges of mass murder of protesters.
Around 90 people died and some 1,000 were wounded in clashes between police and opposition supporters in 2010 that led to Bakiyev’s government stepping down and an opposition coalition taking power.