How to make a cash cow out of state property? (Как из государственного ХОЗУ сделать дойную козу?) Investigation in 5 parts.

Entry type: Single project

Country/area: Kazakhstan

Publishing organisation: Telegram and YoyTube channel @shishkin_like, Center of Journalistic Investigations LLP.

Organisation size: Small

Publication date: 2022-11-03

Language: Russian

Authors: Contributors to my investigation:
Dmitry Shishkin, editor-in-chief, presenter of the video-version,
Maria Mamaluga, designer,
Ivan Skovikov, camera man.


Our media started on May, 2022. At the same time I have known the editor-in-chief since the 90s. We used to work for the same newspaper.

I have been in journalism since 1996 (after graduation). In 2005 I received MA in the University of Westminster and since then have worked not only in investigative journalism, but also in fact checking (2017-2022, Factcheck.kz). In general I’ve published more than 200 fact-checks. In addition, I led a project on publishing the Kazakh-Russian version of the Project Syndicate magazine (2018-2019) and was a member of the small grants jury (Internews Kazakhstan, 2022).

Project description:

In my previous [investigation](https://t.me/shishkin_like/1568?single) I wrote about the “miraculous” transformation of the state-owned CJSC “HOZU” into a private enterprise as a result of a strikingly soft investment tender. One of the buildings turned out to be in hands of President Nazarbayevs’ daughter.

In this investigation I’m telling how the vast majority of the previously state-owned residences and administrative buildings in Almaty (35 properties) became profitable business for Nazarbayev’s nephew Satubaldy, oligarchs V.Kim and V.Dzhumanbayev and his partner from Liechtenstein. For example, one of their office centers alone has the potential to bring $13 million per year.

Impact reached:

Currently, our telegram channel has more than 8 thousand subscribers, which is quite a significant for a new media that started only in May, 2022. In addition, this is a rather serious audience for the media working exclusively in the field of open data investigations and using telegram messenger as the main outlet. YouTube version has 5,86 K.

Each of the parts of my investigation received coverage from 2651 to 2911 views. I assume that the publication did not go unnoticed among the interested parties. For example, the oligarch Vladimir Dzhumanbayev officially resigned from the founders of the company which now owns property (previously owned by the state). I guess it happened because of the investigation.

In addition, one of the political science experts [believes](https://t.me/chebotarev_kz/150) that our media is in the top 10 socio-political channels in 2022. I assume that our audience is specific, to a large extent it is made up of decision-makers.

I can’t say anything about inspiration for other journalists, but they often use our investigations in their work, sometimes they forget about links. But it’s still very nice.

Techniques/technologies used:

In this investigation, as in others, I used the business registers of Kazakhstan, as well as the legislative base containing government resolutions and presidential decrees since 1998. Also I used the business register of the Dutch Chamber of Commerce. As it turned out, one of the beneficiaries is the founder of a Dutch company and citizen of Liechtenstein engaged in fiduciary services. His name is Clemens Laternser.

In addition, I used maps and websites with commercial real estate rental ads. Maps were useful for analysis of location of real estate and for illustrations. Some ads gave me information about the approximate cost of rent. In general, my sources are open data.

Project designer Maria Mamaluga created illustrations and infographics (see additional links). Please, note: the introductory part (where main link leads) contains links to the parts with the continuation of the investigation. You can find these links under the text of the introductory part. There are 5 such parts in total. Also 7th additional link leads to the video version of the investigation. The presenter of the video version is a chief of our media Dmitry Shishkin.

Context about the project:

Firstly, few words about political context: a transit of presidential authority was happened in Kazakhstan in 2019. Nazarbayev, who ruled the state for about 30 years, transfered the power to Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. Since then there have been presidential elections for 2 times. And Tokayev won twice. Especially the first time there were issues related to some violations. However, now it is no longer possible to say that he is a protege of Nazarbayev (although initially he was). Over the past year and at the beginning of this year a number of changes have taken place at the legislative level. These changes aimed to reduce the rights and guarantees for the former president and members of his family.

Despite the fact that Nazarbayevs’ brother, nephew and others close people are now under investigation for corruption crimes, his family’s strength is still quite great. The largest objects, including mining, mineral resources, manufacturing industry, construction, commercial real estate and even utilities sector belong to people who are somehow connected with the old team. Therefore, it is important to talk about the assets that they unfairly own.

And it is important that evidence should be absolute, for e.g. in the case of legal claims. Therefore, I use business registers, information about tax payments, financial reports and other documentation from the public domain.

The second important thing is that Kazakhstan is on the 122 position (out of 180) in the World Press Freedom Index in 2022, and on 102 place (out of 180) in the Corruption Perceptions Index (2021). This facts show the general context regarding journalism and some frames of our work.

What can other journalists learn from this project?

Other journalists could probably gain knowledge of working with the business registers of Kazakhstan and foreign countries. However now, unfortunately, the European Union has temporarily restricted public access to information about the ultimate beneficial owners of companies. I hope that journalists will still be able to receive such information upon request.

In addition, the value of the work lies in the analysis of data from different sources and the ability to compare them. Accuracy and precision are also important.

Project links: