BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan (AP) – The fugitive son of Kyrgyzstan’s deposed president has been arrested by police in London on a U.S. extradition warrant on suspicion of fraud, British and Kyrgyz authorities said Saturday.
London’s Metropolitan Police said 34-year-old Maksim Bakiyev was arrested Friday afternoon and faces charges of conspiracy to defraud and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice between 2010 and 2012.
He was detained by officers from the force’s extradition unit after agreeing to go to a police station in the upmarket Belgravia area of the city, and released on bail until his next court hearing on Dec. 7, it said.
The U.S. Embassy in Kyrgyzstan said that if convicted, Bakiyev could face a lengthy prison sentence.
Kyrgyz prosecutors say that companies owned by Bakiyev avoided almost $80 million in taxes on aviation fuel sold to suppliers of a U.S. air base in the country, a key refueling point for warplanes flying over Afghanistan and a major hub for combat troop movement.
Kyrgyz authorities said no extradition agreement exists between the Central Asian nation and Britain, but that Bakiyev could be extradited to face trial in the U.S.
The allegations date back to 2005, the year Maksim’s father Kurmanbek Bakiyev came to power. His critics claim he soon started grooming his son as a successor.
Maksim Bakiyev was strongly disliked by large swaths of Kyrgyzstan’s population and was popularly viewed as the main beneficiary of his father’s rule.
The British government said the prosecution of corrupt former Kyrgyz officials could help the goal of ensuring stability in the troubled ex-Soviet nation.
“As part of those efforts, 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,” the British Embassy in Kyrgyzstan said Saturday.
Kurmanbek Bakiyev was ousted from power in a mass uprising in 2010 stoked by indignation over stagnant economic progress and rampant corruption.
He fled to Belarus, where he now lives under the auspices of its authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.
Kyrgyzstan has seen the overthrow of two governments in its short history since gaining independence amid the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
President Askar Akayev was cast out of power in May 2005 after a weeks-long sit-in protest against corruption and misrule in the center of the capital. Five years later, several dozen people were shot dead by government troops when angry mobs attacked the presidential administration building in unrest that led to Bakiyev’s ouster.
The constitution introduced in 2010 created a more even balance of power between parliament and the presidency, aimed at avoiding the emergence of an authoritarian leadership.
Jill Lawless in London contributed to this report.
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