A 'Prince' Dethroned: Son of Dictator Fights US Extradition

Article excerpt

Two years after he fled to London, Maxim Bakiyev faces court battle

When his father was in power he was known as "The Prince" and was widely believed to be the richest man in the former Soviet state of Kyrgyzstan. He rarely left his mansion without a retinue of bodyguards and was often spotted hurtling through Bishkek followed closely by armoured SUVs.

Yesterday Maxim Bakiyev sat in the dock at Westminster magistrates' court. The 34-year-old son of fallen strongman Kurmanbek Bakiyev appeared for the first hearing of what is likely to become a lengthy extradition battle.

Prosecutors in the United States allege that the Kyrgyz businessman was involved in a complex insider trading scheme that netted millions of pounds on the New York Stock Exchange in September last year. An affidavit from an FBI special agent, which has been seen by The Independent, states that one of Mr Bakiyev's former business colleagues has "agreed to co-operate with the US government" and provide details on the alleged scheme.

Mr Bakiyev denies the claims and has vowed to fight any attempt to extradite him to the US. But the American extradition request is just one of the accusations that has dogged the businessman since he fled his homeland in a private jet, landed at Farnborough airport and tried to claim asylum.

In the spring of 2010, popular resentment against the increasingly despotic regime of Kurmanbek Bakiyev spilled over into street protests that led to the deaths of hundreds of demonstrators and eventually succeeded in forcing the leader out of office.

Mr Bakiyev senior had come to power five years earlier in a popular revolt. Ordinary Kyrgyz, who live in one of Central Asia's most impoverished countries where average annual household incomes still languish around 1,500, had hoped the revolution would herald a new era of prosperity and freedom. Instead, the new regime became increasingly authoritarian, corrupt and nepotistic. …