Kyrgyz party accuses PM of taking horse as bribe



Bishkek: A party in Kyrgyzstan's fragile ruling coalition accused the Prime Minister on Monday of granting government contracts in exchange for a racehorse, accusations he denied.

The Ata-Meken party said it would seek to a no-confidence motion in parliament against Omurbek Babanov, possibly fueling political instability in the turbulent Central Asian nation. Public disagreements are a common feature of Kyrgyz politics, but the latest spat could trigger the collapse of the current four-party government coalition.

Party deputy Zhoomart Saparbayev said a company that secured a building contract at the country's main airport imported the horse, valued at between USD 500,000 and USD 1.5 million, without paying import duties. The party says it has learned the horse, which it says is called Islander One, now belongs to Babanov.

Ata-Meken leader Omurbek Tekebayev has suggested making Babanov the target of a criminal probe.

"The anti-corruption service should file a criminal case on the elite horse gifted to the Prime Minister. Babanov himself should be barred from leaving the country," Tekebayev said.

Babanov's office issued a statement today, describing Ata-Meken's accusations as "lies." It said the prime minister bought the horse with his own money and that its value was vastly inferior to that suggested by Ata-Meken.

"We can offer Omurbek (Tekebayev) a better deal let him buy the horse from the Prime Minister for USD 20,000 and then he can try to sell it at a higher price," the statement said. The premier has staked his reputation on fighting graft in the corruption-ridden ex-Soviet nation.

PTI