Kazakh ex-economy minister detained in bribery case

ASTANA (Reuters) - Kazakh former economy minister Kuandyk Bishimbayev has been arrested on suspicion of bribery, the Central Asian country’s National Anticorruption Bureau said on Tuesday.

Bishimbayev, 36, was placed in a temporary detention facility in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana while a pre-trial investigation proceeded. Bishimbayev and his representatives were not immediately available for comment.

“Bishimbayev is detained over multiple acceptance of bribes in especially large amounts in collusion with a group of people,” the anti-graft office said in a statement. “(He) spent the illegally obtained funds on his personal needs.”

Bishimbayev was dismissed from his ministerial post by President Nursultan Nazarbayev in late 2016 after just a few months in office.

Timur Suleimenov, 38, a former deputy economy minister, was appointed to replace Bishimbayev.

Nazarbayev, 79, holds the distinction of being the only former Communist leader who still runs his nation after it gained independence in the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Despite pledges to fight corruption, graft continues to thrive in Kazakhstan and in other former Soviet republics.

Reporting by Raushan Nurshayeva; Writing by Andrey Ostroukh; editing by Mark Heinrich