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Liz Truss

Sec­ret­ary of State for For­eign Com­mon­wealth and Devel­op­ment Affairs

King Charles Street



3rd Feb­ru­ary 2022

Dear Sec­ret­ary of State

Tar­geted anti-cor­rup­tion sanc­tions  in rela­tion to Kazakhstan

We are writ­ing to urge you to impose urgent tar­geted sanc­tions under the UK’s Glob­al Anti-Cor­rup­tion Sanc­tions Regime in rela­tion to Kaza­kh­stan. It is now three weeks since the unpre­ced­en­ted viol­ence in Kaza­kh­stan in which the gov­ern­ment was forced to resign amidst wide­spread reports of Kaza­kh elites who had plundered their coun­try seek­ing refuge in coun­tries abroad. The cor­rup­tion by this elite is one of the most egre­gious examples of klepto­cracy in recent years that has gone hand in hand with viol­a­tions of human rights, depriving people of fun­da­ment­al freedoms, and even­tu­ally res­ul­ted in large-scale protests due to the lack of oth­er ways for the people to express their opinions.

This moment is a crit­ic­al time to encour­age change. If cor­rupt elites know that their assets will be frozen and their abil­ity to travel freely will be cur­tailed it would send a power­ful message.

We have seen with Rus­sia and with Belarus that where there is polit­ic­al will, the UK is pre­pared to move swiftly with allies to take action and use sanc­tions to sup­port its call for beha­viour change. Swift action is essen­tial to avoid the dis­sip­a­tion of cor­rupt assets out of our fin­an­cial centre. The impos­i­tion of sanc­tions would enable the urgent freez­ing of assets in the UK that res­ult from the cor­rup­tion of the Naz­ar­bayev-era, and pre­serve them for fur­ther invest­ig­a­tion by UK law enforce­ment, and ulti­mately for the poten­tial return of these assets to the people of Kaza­kh­stan from whom they have been stolen.

The UK has a heavy respons­ib­il­ity in the case of Kaza­kh­stan as it has long provided a safe haven for cor­rupt assets of the depart­ing elite. Swift action by the UK in imple­ment­ing anti-cor­rup­tion sanc­tions will help embolden the new gov­ern­ment in Kaza­kh­stan to take steps to retrieve assets looted from the people of Kazakhstan.

We urge you to work with col­leagues to ensure that the UK law enforce­ment bod­ies pro­ceed at pace with invest­ig­a­tions into cor­rupt assets in the UK by Naz­ar­bayev-era indi­vidu­als, and that they are prop­erly resourced to do so. Pro­gress on law enforce­ment invest­ig­a­tions into Kaza­kh linked cor­rup­tion com­bined with action on sanc­tions would send a power­ful mes­sage that the UK will use all the tools at its dis­pos­al to tackle corruption.

At the same time, the UK gov­ern­ment should urge the Tokayev gov­ern­ment to allow inde­pend­ent invest­ig­a­tion of human rights abuses, includ­ing the treat­ment of detain­ees, sup­pres­sion of peace­ful protest and use of excess­ive force by secur­ity forces, alleged to have taken place dur­ing the weeks of unrest in early Janu­ary. If it tran­spires that the new regime is unwill­ing to allow such inde­pend­ent invest­ig­a­tion and con­tin­ues to engage in sup­pres­sion of human rights, the UK should con­sider with its inter­na­tion­al part­ners how the impos­i­tion of tar­geted human rights sanc­tions could ensure the new regime abides by inter­na­tion­al law and meets its oblig­a­tions to pro­tect the human rights of its citizens.

Earli­er this year as a host to the G7, the UK com­mit­ted to strengthen cooper­a­tion on deny­ing safe haven to cor­rupt act­ors and their wealth. It is time for the UK to show that it is pre­pared to live up to its inter­na­tion­al com­mit­ments and use sanc­tions on tar­geted Kaza­kh des­ig­na­tions to tackle the scourge of kleptocracy.


Adam Hug, Dir­ect­or, For­eign Policy Centre (in a per­son­al capacity)

Leila Seiit­bek, Free­dom for Euras­ia NGO

John Heath­er­shaw, Pro­fess­or of Inter­na­tion­al Rela­tions, Uni­ver­sity of Exeter

Thomas Mayne, Research fel­low, Uni­ver­sity of Exeter

James Nixey, Dir­ect­or of Rus­sia, Euras­ia and Europe Pro­grams, Chath­am House

Eva van der Mer­we, Exec­ut­ive Dir­ect­or, Inter­na­tion­al Law­yers Project

Susan Haw­ley, Exec­ut­ive Dir­ect­or, Spot­light on Corruption

Anneke Van Wouden­berg, Exec­ut­ive Dir­ect­or, Rights & Account­ab­il­ity in Devel­op­ment (RAID)

Duncan Hames, Dir­ect­or of Policy, Trans­par­ency Inter­na­tion­al UK

Oliv­er Windridge, rights: applied

Rupert Skil­beck, Dir­ect­or, REDRESS