Speaking on December 6, 2017 during an appearance on a nationally broadcasted teleconference detailing Kazakhstan’s industrialization, President Nursultan Nazarbayev said: «18 Kazakhstan-based companies have been keeping 12.5 billion dollars abroad. Tengizchevroil – $4.5 billion, KMG – $3 billion, KMG EP – $2 billion, Asian gas pipeline – more than $1 billion, the Beineu-Shymkent gas pipeline – $100 million. And so on. (…) You are going to lose your money that you have been keeping abroad. Can you not see that? With those sanctions, there’s nothing you can do. Return your money and keep it in Kazakhstan. What are the assurances you need? You mean laws, decrees? I will do that. If you don’t do what we ask, we’re doing it ourselves. Don’t take this the wrong way».
The Kazakh leader instructed Prime Minister Bakytzhan Sagintayev to analyze and examine why state-controlled companies had tripped their foreign cash holding from $2 billion to $6 billion in the first six months of 2017.
«Enough of that, enough of toying around, it’s time to stop. Look at them, carried away with their games, keeping their money abroad, buying yachts and mansions in different countries. We haven’t yet subjected anyone to an audit. We wanted to give them an opportunity to earn money. Yet they must remember that our country is the one that gave them all this. We got to deal with that situation. If Prime Minister doesn’t, I will», he added.
Nursultan Nazarbayev also called out Kazakhstani companies for delaying the transfer to Kazakhstan of $7.7 billion in export revenue.
He said the capital outflow was only made possible due to weak legislations and urged the government to draw up new regulations.
It should be noted that the issue of offshore funds was raised in parliament by the Ak Zhol party a few years ago. They asked the government to lift bank secrecy in respect of overseas accounts held by public officials, the management of national companies and state enterprises. According to Azat Peruashev, head of the Ak Zhol party parliamentary faction, capital flight from Kazakhstan into offshore accounts reached $140 billion over the 20 years of the country’s independence. He noted that the funds are «as a rule derived from corruption».
«These are the money our country has lost, they are not being invested in the economy, they are not creating products and jobs», the Kazakh MP said.
According to him, the extent of such financial losses is just astonishing and remarkable, and it is comparable to that of the country’s annual GDP.
Capital outflow from the country to offshore safe havens is not unheard of in Kazakhstan, but it is a source of frustration for people who want change and justice in the distribution of benefits of the national economy. This is a long-standing issue.
In 2012, the members of the Senate of the Kazakh Parliament revealed information that 737 offshore companies working in Kazakhstan have a registration address in the Virgin Islands. Even back then, there was nothing out of the ordinary. That would be surprising if it suddenly turned out that Kazakhstan was no longer linked to off-shore havens such as the Bermuda and Virgin Islands. But this was and still is hardly realistic.
There was a time when the tiny islands of Bermuda were officially considered as the largest export partner of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and the similarly small British Virgin Islands as the largest export partner of the Aktobe region of Kazakhstan. No other country was then in a position to make a «similar boast» in the area of international trade.
This situation looked so unusual that it started receiving more focused attention of the public at home and abroad. At that time, one of our papers published an article on the subject under the half-joking and half-serious headline «Лишь бы не было войны на Виргинских островах!» – «Everything but the war in the Virgin Islands!».
With the general public showing such tangential interest in the subject, the Bermuda and Virgin Islands ceased to appear in Kazakhstan’s official statistical reports. Yet the issue of offshore funds continues to be relevant.