Maksim Bakiev, the son of Kyrgyzstan's deposed President Kurmanbek Bakiev, could be facing years in prison. (Reuters)
Why does the United States want to arrest the son of a former Kyrgyz president who resides in Britain? The question has been circulating ever since Maksim Bakiev, 35, was arrested in London on an extradition request from Washington late on October 12.
Bakiev, son of deposed Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev, was released on bail a few days later. Since then, he has said nothing about why he is wanted across the Atlantic.
But while Bakiev stays silent, more details are emerging about his case. And it is now clear that the charges against him are serious enough that they could mean years of jail time if he is found guilty.
"There are currently two different types of charges that are being considered here," says Christopher Swift, an adjunct professor of national security studies at Georgetown University. "The first is a fraud charge, i.e., lying or stealing money in association with the companies he ran at Manas airfield outside Bishkek. And the second is securities fraud involving the stock market here in the United States. And either one of those [charges] would be enough to put somebody in prison for several years, maybe for quite a long time, depending on the nature of the alleged crime and what the [U.S.] government is able to prove."
According to Swift, whether or not Bakiev actually faces trial in the United States will depend on how a British court rules on his pending request for political asylum.
Bakiev, a Kyrgyz citizen, requested asylum in Britain shortly after arriving there in June, 2010.
"In the event that the asylum decision comes out as a 'no,' he would probably be sent back to Kyrgyzstan," Swift says. "In the event that he is granted asylum and then the British courts decide there are grounds for extradition, he would be extradited to the United States."
So far, there is no indication of when a British court might rule on the asylum request. Bakiev is wanted in Kyrgyzstan on various charges, including an indictment that he took millions from the country's largest bank before fleeing the country.
Bakiev says these charges are politically motivated.
Alleged Inside Trading
U.S. prosecutors who are seeking Bakiev's extradition have not spelled out their accusations against him publicly. But, on October 17, the U.S. daily "The Wall Street Journal" detailed the charges citing sources close to the case.
Alan Cullison, one of the daily's reporters, told RFE/RL that the FBI believes Bakiev earned several million dollars of profits on illegal inside trading on the U.S. stock market in 2010-11.
"They pointed out three specific trades as indicative of the types of things that he did," he said. "One was of a company called Tyco International, which was on the New York Stock Exchange, another one was of Inter Mune, Inc., on the NASDAQ, and another one was of Global Industries Ltd., which also traded on the NASDAQ exchange."
All three cases are alleged to have involved conspiracies to buy millions of dollars worth of stock in the companies based on secret information that they soon would be taken over by, or merged with, other corporations.
The conspirators, so the accusation goes, counted on the imminent mergers to increase the stock's value so that the stock they purchased could be resold immediately at substantial profits.
Those involved in the investigation say the information about the imminent mergers came from stock traders illegally making nonpublic information available to their fellow conspirators, who provided the millions of dollars needed to make the purchases.
"The Wall Street Journal" reports that on April 2011, the purchase of $5 million worth of Tyco International stock "led to a $390,000 profit when word later spread that Tyco was an imminent takeover target."
A September 2011 purchase and resale of $3.6 million worth of Global Industries Ltd. stock proved much more lucrative, netting a profit of $1.7 million. However, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission became suspicious of the quick buying and selling and froze the proceeds from that sale.
The details are provided in court documents involving one of the alleged co-conspirators, Taiyyib Ali Munir.
Munir, a London-based stock trader, appeared in federal court in New York on October 15 and pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit insider trading.
The court documents in Munir's case do not name Munir's alleged partners in crime. But "The Wall Street Journal" reports that "several people involved in the case say the man named as 'co-conspirator #1' is Mr. Bakiev."
Meanwhile, another person that "The Wall Street Journal's" sources have identified as a member of the conspiracy, Yevgeny Gurevich, surrendered to Italian authorities on unrelated charges on October 17.
Italian prosecutors want to question Gurevich over his alleged involvement in fraud that is said to have siphoned $2.7 billion from communications-service providers Telecom Italia SpA and Fastweb SpA between 2003 and 2006.
But Gurevich, who is also a U.S. citizen known as a friend and financial adviser to Maksim Bakiev when he was in Kyrgyzstan, is of equal interest in the U.S. stock trading case.
"The Wall Street Journal" reports that he is the "confidential source" who U.S. court documents say cooperated with the FBI to compile the case against Munir.
"'Confidential Source' is just a person the FBI does not want to name in the papers so they can try to keep the name secret so that he would be safe," says Cullison. "But [given] the circumstances of the case, it is just so clear who it is, that we are confident in just saying it was Gurevich."
Cullison adds that Gurevich "appears to be the person who was responsible for introducing Maksim [Bakiev] to people who had the secret or illegal information" needed to do the insider stock trading.