* Former Kazakh uranium boss accused of money laundering
* New accusation is latest against jailed Mukhtar Dzhakishev
* Foreign investors concerned with high-profile case
By Raushan Nurshayeva
ASTANA, March 4 Kazakhstan on Thursday accused a
former uranium tycoon of money laundering and said its security
service had launched a new criminal probe into his affairs in a
case that has shaken confidence in the Central Asian state.
One of Kazakhstan's most prominent business figures, Mukhtar
Dzhakishev was arrested last year on accusations of corruption,
theft and illegal sales of uranium assets to foreign companies.
"It's a new case which has been opened within the framework
of an ongoing investigation," said Nurdaulet Suyundikov, a
prosecutor general's office spokesman.
Dzhakishev's case, along with a string of other high-profile
arrests in the former Soviet state and world No. 1 uranium
producer, has fuelled speculation of an intensifying power
struggle within the political elite.
Kazakhstan, hit hard by global economic slowdown, wants to
attract fresh foreign investment as well as bolster the role of
the state in strategic industries such as uranium and oil.
It has also alarmed human rights groups who have questioned
Kazakhstan's methods of fighting corruption in a country where
President Nursultan Nazarbayev, in power for two decades,
tolerates little political dissent.
Some diplomats have drawn parallels between Dzhakishev and
the 2003 demise of Russia's Mikhail Khodorkovsky who is now
serving an eight-year prison sentence for fraud and tax evasion
after a trial Kremlin critics say was politically motivated.
Dzhakishev, who was head of state uranium major Kazatomprom
from 1998 until his arrest, has denied all accusations.
"It is obvious that I cannot count on justice in my own
country and my fate has already been decided," he wrote from his
detention centre in a letter published by his lawyers this week.
"But I want to tell the people of Kazakhstan that I am
innocent," added Dzhakishev who played a key role in turning
Kazatomprom into a major global uranium player.
His arrest left Kazatomprom's foreign partners such as
Canada's UraniumOne worried about the future of their projects.
Other investors include France's Areva and Japanese companies
such as Toshiba Corporation.
Closed-door court hearings into earlier allegations of theft
and corruption have already started and lawyers expect a verdict
as soon as this month.
(Writing by Maria Golovnina; Editing by Louise Ireland)