The recently imprisoned former head of Kazakhstan’s state nuclear power agency stole the majority of the Central Asian nation’s uranium deposits, security officials alleged on Monday.
Former Kazatomprom head Mukhtar Dzhakishev and other company officials illegally shifted ownership of uranium mines worth tens of billions of dollars through a network of offshore companies, the KNB security service said.
“Our information confirms the illegal tranfer of more than 60 percent of the state’s uranium deposits into the property of Dzhakishev and the companies he owned,” a KNB spokesman told reporters in the capital Astana.
The announcement by the KNB — the successor to the Soviet-era KGB — raises the pressure on Dzhakishev and other Kazatomprom executives, less than two weeks after he was stripped of his title and imprisoned.
Authorities did not explain how Dzhakishev managed to steal more than half of the country’s uranium deposits out from under the government’s nose. All uranium deals in Kazakhstan are heavily monitored and audited by the state.
Kazakhstan, an ex-Soviet republic bordering Russia and China, holds almost 20 percent of the world’s uranium reserves and aims to be the number one producer by 2010, overtaking Australia and Canada.
The country is keen to be seen as a global player in issues of nuclear security. Last year, Kazakhstan mined around 8,500 tonnes of uranium and plans to extract 11,900 tonnes in 2009, according to Kazatomprom.