U.S. asks Britain to extradite Kyrgyz ex-leader's son

ALMATY Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:46pm EDT

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ALMATY (Reuters) - The United States has asked Britain to extradite the arrested son of Kyrgyzstan's fugitive ex-president on fraud charges, the U.S. embassy in Bishkek said on Saturday.

The request looked likely to be granted since the United States and Britain have an extradition agreement.

The Kyrgyz president's office said Maxim Bakiyev, son of the former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev, had been arrested in London on Friday at the request of Kyrgyzstan and the United States.

British police said Bakiyev, 34, was detained by extradition officers on the request of U.S. authorities, who want to question him for alleged involvement in fraud, after he voluntarily went to an appointment at a central London police station.

"The United States has requested the extradition of Mr. Bakiyev from the United Kingdom to face trial in U.S. federal court on serious charges of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and obstruction of justice," the U.S. embassy in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek said in a statement (bishkek.usembassy.gov). "If convicted, Mr. Bakiyev could face a lengthy prison sentence."

The Kyrgyz president's office said on Friday that given the absence of an extradition deal between Bishkek and London, Britain was considering the option of sending Bakiyev to face justice in the United States.

Kurmanbek Bakiyev was given shelter by Belarus after crowds of protesters seized his government headquarters in an April 2010 revolt in which about 90 people were killed when security forces opened fire on opposition supporters.

Kyrgyzstan, a mainly Muslim, former Soviet republic of 5.5 million that hosts both U.S. and Russian military air bases, has struggled to build Central Asia's first parliamentary democracy since Bakiyev's ouster.

"The UK staunchly supports the efforts of the leadership and people of Kyrgyzstan over the last two years to set Kyrgyzstan firmly on a path to a more democratic, stable and prosperous future," the British Embassy said in a statement.

"We are conscious that, 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."

Belarus, run by authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko, has repeatedly rejected Kyrgyzstan's requests to extradite the former president, who is accused at home of "mass killings" of protesters during the coup.

Maxim Bakiyev, who under his father headed an investment agency, has been accused by Kyrgyz authorities of involvement in large-scale frauds that stripped the impoverished country's coffers of millions of dollars.

Kyrgyzstan's ties with Belarus have soured in recent months after Minsk also declined to extradite the ex-president's younger brother Zhanybek, who headed his personal security guard and is also accused of committing mass killings.

Two presidents, including Bakiyev, have been toppled in Kyrgyzstan since 2005. Some 500 people were killed in inter-ethnic violence in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010.

(Reporting and writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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