While accusations of alleged political entanglements between the pharmaceutical industry and politics are increasingly being discussed in the West, Kyrgyzstan is one step ahead.
Kyrgyz Health Minister Alymkadyr Beishenaliev, who some time ago advised the people of Kyrgyzstan to treat COVID with the poisonous plant aconite (which promptly earned him the nickname “aconite”), was arrested on June 2nd on charges of corruption in the procurement of COVID vaccines.
Promised as humanitarian aid, 6 million vaccine doses had been delegated to Kyrgyzstan by Russia, China, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan. However, the health minister purchased an additional 2.4 million vaccine doses in 2021 with public funds, for a total value of nearly $19 million. The payment was made to an offshore account.
Kyrgyzstan is a vaccine-sceptic country in Central Asia. Only 23% out of a population of 6.6 million are vaccinated twice against COVID. Thus, it comes as no surprise that 240,000 of the vaccine doses purchased by Beishenaliev had already expired, unused, at the time of the arrest.
In all, Beishenaliev faces seven charges: one for corruption, two for bribery, and four for abuse of office and intentionally signing unprofitable contracts.
For the duration of the investigation, several of Beishenaliev’s former associates were detained, including deputy Health Minister Ulukbek Bekturganov. A small group of supporters spoke out in favour of his release and reinstatement to office. Beishenaliev denies all charges; the presumption of innocence applies.