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Kyrgyz: The 700-Million-Dollar Man | OCCRP |

On Istanbul's European side, the Ottoman-era Çırağan Palace rises grandly above the waters of the Bosphorus. Once, the servants of Sultan Abdülâziz hurried up and down its marble halls. After a fire gutted the interior in 1909, it was left in ruins for years, its garden used as a football pitch.

Today, Çırağan hosts the Kempinski, a five-star hotel where the rich and ultra-rich dine on oysters, lounge by the infinity pool, and pose for photos in front of an ornate 17th-century gate.

But on one warm day in late October, a more unusual pair sat at an upscale Italian restaurant by the palace's famous garden. The two men spoke for hours, occasionally glancing up to see if anyone was watching, with a pile of papers spread out on the table between them.

One was a journalist. The other was Aierken Saimaiti, a polite, talkative 37-year-old car rental agent who had arrived in Istanbul from his home in Kyrgyzstan two years earlier.

Nothing about Saimaiti's appearance betrayed his many secrets. But just days earlier, one of his employees had been beaten to death back home. And now, worried for his own safety, he was ready to make his real business -- and his clients -- fully public.

by Oui on Mon Jan 10th, 2022 at 09:40:10 PM EST

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