TURKMENISTAN CORRUPTION: WHAT HAPPENS IN
Fri Dec 14 00:00:00 +0100 2007
PP RUEHAG RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHLH RUEHPW RUEHROV
DE RUEHAH #1348/01 3480853
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 140853Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9871
INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVE
RUCNMEM/EU MEMBER STATES COLLECTIVE
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RUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 0912
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RUEHIT/AMCONSUL ISTANBUL 1362
RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC
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RHMFISS/CDR USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
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RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHINGTON DC
RUEHVEN/USMISSION USOSCE 1988C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 ASHGABAT 001348
STATE FOR SCA/CEN, EEB
AID/W FOR EE/AA (BOB WALLIN)
PLEASE PASS TO USTDA DAN STEIN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/14/2017
TAGS: EIND ETRD PGOV PREL TX
SUBJECT: TURKMENISTAN CORRUPTION: WHAT HAPPENS IN
ASHGABAT, STAYS IN ASHGABAT
REF: A. ASHGABAT 1335
¶B. ASHGABAT 1047
¶1. (C) SUMMARY: Corruption and nepotism remain problems in Turkmenistan, and Turkish firms and Bouygues have done particularly well in the lucrative construction industry because they have mastered the business environment here. Bouygues CEO Martin Bouygues' close and direct relationship to the president of Turkmenistan is an open secret. A well-connected member of Turkmenistan's international diplomatic community alleged that the price for introductions to the president have risen from ten to 15 percent since Niyazov's death. He also alleged that construction contract prices are so high because construction companies must add 20 or 30 percent to their bids just to cover bribes -- and that President Berdimuhamedov is engaging in more construction contracts in order to amass more personal wealth, of which Avaza (Ref. A) is a part. With all agreeing that corruption is as much a part of Turkmenistan's business environment as ever, the need to compete with firms not bond by U.S. anti-corruption laws adds a new layer of complexity and uncertainty for U.S. firms wishing to do business here. END SUMMARY.
CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY: MOST VISIBLY CORRUPT INDUSTRY
¶2. (C) At a dinner on December 4, a group of ambassadors lamented that the Government of Turkmenistan awards construction contracts only to Turkish firms, and XXXXXXXXXXXX alluded to the "special" arrangement that French construction firm Bouygues holds with Turkmenistan's government. When questioned directly about the veracity of the rumor that Siemens is encouraging the government of Turkmenistan on the idea of installing one main satellite dish per building, XXXXXXXXXXXX acknowledged Siemens' corrupt business practices. On December 5, XXXXXXXXXXXX gave a wide-ranging account of his views of corruption in Turkmenistan. The source said that "Bouygues has not done $1.2 billion in work over the past years only on the basis of the quality of their work," and added that XXXXXXXXXXXX's comment about Bouygues probably was in reference to the direct, personal relationship that CEO Martin Bouygues has had with the former and current heads of state of Turkmenistan.
PRICE HIKE FOR PRESIDENTIAL INTRODUCTIONS
¶3. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX recently estimated that, based on current rumors, bribes to senior officials for meetings with the president have risen from ten percent under former President Niyazov to 15 percent under President Berdimuhamedov. XXXXXXXXXXXX emphasized, however, that bribing is a private affair, which only very few people in any given firm aware of it. Whatever happens between Bouygues and Turkmenistan's president -- former or current -- in all likelihood stays between them.
BRIBES AREN'T FREE -- SOMEONE PAYS
¶4. (C) XXXXXXXXXXXX also gave one explanation for what seem to be very high construction project costs in Turkmenistan. Alleging that the Government of Turkmenistan owes everyone money, Turkish construction firms and Bouygues begin work only after receiving a down payment. (NOTE: According to the source, John Deere distributor IPC just started taking unconfirmed letters of credit. END NOTE.) Because it is very likely that the Government of Turkmenistan won't pay the last ten percent,
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companies routinely add an additional ten percent to the final negotiated price. Because corruption runs all the way down to subcontractors, construction companies usually tack on another 20 or 30 percent to the project price to make up for the bribes that the various parties have to pay along the way.
TEXTILE MINISTRY DETERMINED TURKISH MANAGERS OVERCHARGED
¶5. (C) The source said that the Ministry of Textiles became suspicious and began checking on the actual prices of spare parts bought by Turkish co-managers at joint-venture factories. Ministry officials verified that the Turkish partners grossly overcharged the Ministry for parts -- but as the source explained, the managers "have" to add on surcharges/bribes anywhere they can, including spare parts, because they have to pay off Ministry officials to stay in partnership at the factory. (COMMENT: This story about the Ministry of Textiles seems to be consistent with the rumor that Ahmet Chalik may have played a significant role in the imprisonment of Minister of Textiles Jemal Goklenova under President Niyazov because she favored eliminating Turkish managers from the textile factories in order to let Turkmen manage the factories themselves (Ref. B). END COMMENT.)
MORE RUMORS ON THE BIG TURKISH CONSTRUCTION COMPANIES
¶6. (C) Formerly prominent Turkish construction firms such as Nursel, headed by Ibrahim Kollek, are out of favor. Rumors of a falling out between Kollek and the Government of Turkmenistan abound in Ashgabat, as well as a rumor that Kollek filed a lawsuit against the government of Turkmenistan in Turkey.
¶7. (C) According to the source, there is an understanding that higher-up officials should dole out a portion of these bribes to their minions, and former President Niyazov reportedly cracked down on those taking bribes who didn't share the wealth with others down the food chain. From all appearances, President Berdimuhamedov is engaging in the same behavior, as Turkmenistan watchers and experts such as this source have the impression that Berdimuhamedov's desire to accumulate wealth is the motivating factor behind the many large contracts the government engages in. Also, rumors persist that provincial governors have to pay a bribe of $100,000 for their jobs.
...PERHAPS AN EXPLANATION FOR THE MYSTERY THAT IS AVAZA?
¶8. (C) The source mentioned the Avaza Tourism Zone (Ref. A) as an example of corruption -- and lack of any understanding of infrastructure development -- in Turkmenistan. Depending on the moment, the project plays the role of a free economic zone, a touristic zone, or a port development project. As the source pointed out, in a properly organized port development project, studies on traffic and passenger flows and architects' studies should precede work, and planners would allocate approximately ten percent of the entire budget to pay these technical experts before work began. As far as anyone can tell, none of these studies have been done or planned for in the Avaza budget, but planners expect to spend $2.8 billion to upgrade the completely dilapidated jetties and wharfs at the port alone -- including $212 million for a seven-kilometer canal alone.
THE "RIGHT SORT" OF COMPANY
¶9. (C) The source said that a company offered one of his contacts a 2.5% commission for introducing the "right sort"
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of European contractor -- i.e., a contractor with a sterling reputation -- with the ability to disguise bribes from auditors. The source refused to give any sort of identifying information about his contact, but said that "people who studied in Moscow have the right contacts," adding that "not everyone has access" (to Russians in the know and who have ties to Europe.)
WHERE IS THE MONEY KEPT? NO ONE KNOWS.
¶10. (C) All of this being said, no one knows the precise mechanics of corruption due to anti-money laundering procedures currently in place in the United States and European Union, which require various proofs of identity and residency in order to open a legitimate bank account. However, the source said that XXXXXXXXXXXX -- a former deputy minister -- has an account at Citibank in New York. Some also suspect that, despite the Baltic countries' ascension to the EU, Baltic banks are not following anti-money laundering procedures, since many Turkmen citizens have Baltic bank accounts.
¶11. (C) COMMENT: Although Turkmenistan is in a period of reform, corruption is here to stay, at least for the foreseeable future. Nevertheless, this aspect of doing business in Turkmenistan is not dissuading others from wanting to enter the market, since there still seems to be a common acceptance that bribes are an integral part of the bidding and pricing system. But for U.S. firms wishing to enter Turkmenistan's business environment, the need to compete with firms not bound by U.S. anti-corruption laws adds a new layer of complexity and uncertainty. END COMMENT. XXXXXXXXXX