Home Politics American and European companies and informal lobbying in Kazakhstan
American and European companies and informal lobbying in Kazakhstan

American and European companies and informal lobbying in Kazakhstan

by host
American and European companies and informal lobbying in Kazakhstan

Two companies headquartered in the United States – Apple and Amway and the Dutch Yandex N.V. found themselves involved in a story with informal lobbying in Kazakhstan. According to local media, all three companies use the services of the same consulting firm providing GR and PR services.

As Kazakh journalists found out, the company Markets Mentor, registered in Astana, has existed for less than a year. However, it managed to quickly acquire clients with big names. Working with a little-known firm hardly correspond with the compliance policies of Apple, Yandex and Amway. However, contracts to represent the interests of these companies with government authorities were concluded.

As media found out, the secret of Markets Mentor’s attractiveness lies in its ability to influence the adoption of laws that are important for their clients. And also, in the lobbying capabilities of the founders of the consulting firm, associated with the entourage of ex-President Nursultan Nazarbayev.

In this context, the name of Natalia Malyarchuk is mentioned. Former head of the Board of Trustees of the Kazakhstan branch of Transparency International, Malyarchuk heads the GR practice of Markets Mentor. Previously, her name popped up in a scandal involving lobbying for amendments to draft laws that affect the business of multinational companies. In particular, for this purpose Natalia Malyarchuk uses her status as a member of the Public Chamber under the lower house of parliament (mazhilis). This state institute, designed to take into account public interests when developing significant laws, issues its own recommendations that can influence the course of drafting those laws.

At the same time, Kazakh journalists analyzed a number of recommendations from the Public Chamber regarding amendments to bills on government procurement, e-commerce and taxation, seeing in them the interests of transnational companies.

Another interesting fact is that in her work Natalia Malyarchuk enjoys the patronage of Markets Mentor beneficiaries. The company was founded by several retired top managers of the Astana International Financial Center (AIFC), where the Astana International Exchange (AIX) operates. Companies listed on the AIX enjoy a number of tax preferences, which makes it easier for foreign companies to do business in Kazakhstan. The actual beneficiary of Market Mentors is the former head of the AIFC, Kairat Kelimbetov. The former head of Nazarbayev’s administration, Kelimbetov, previously held high positions in the government and rule the Central Bank of Kazakhstan.

After mass protests in January 2022, which, according to many observers, could have been behind Nazarbayev’s entourage, many political figures and officials associated with him resigned, some are in prison. Kelimbetov also lost his posts, but he continued to work secretly in the interests of his patron.

Kazakh media, in particular, talk about Kelimbetov’s connections with the Kazakh oligarch and former Russian citizen Timur Turlov. Kelimbetov now holds the position of adviser in the company Freedom Horizons, owned by Turlov, whose parent structure (Freedom Holding) has an administrative office in Las Vegas, USA. Turlov is called Nursultan Nazarbayev’s “wallet”. The businessman, like Kelimbetov, is closely associated with the eldest daughter of the former president, Dariga Nazarbayeva, and is actually involved in servicing her assets in the gambling business, banks, industry and media.

In light of the upcoming presidential elections in Kazakhstan (to be held in November 2024), a network of public organizations and lobbying structures working in the interests of Nazarbayev’s circle has become more active. The task of this network is to concentrate as much as possible the administrative and financial resources of the Kazakh “old elite” in order to return power at a convenient moment. Only one thing is not clear: what role do multinational Western companies play in this story and are they aware of the associated risks?