Feb 09

Central Asia’s Hidden Offshore Ties — The Politics of Money-laundering and Virtual State-Building

Date & time: April 2, 9am-1pm,
Venue: 1501 International Affairs Building, Harriman Institute, Columbia University


For the first two decades of independence, most academics and policy analysts have viewed Central Asia as detached from the global economy and the diffusion of globalization trends. This is most evident in the US State Department’s recent vision of creating a “New Silk Route” that will increase trade and infrastructure linkages between Afghanistan and the Central Asian states.

But this assumption about Central Asia’s economic isolation is highly selective analytically and empirically inaccurate. Re-orienting our focus away from formal trade flows to the more hidden offshore world and institutions of contemporary finance, we see, in fact, multiple areas that connect the Central Asian region to the global economy. Over the past two decades, Central Asian elites have learned to strategically use global financial institutions and offshore vehicles to split the legal personality of nominally state-controlled assets, launder moneys, and structure side payments for their dealings with external actors such as foreign militaries, telecommunication companies and energy multinationals. For the most part, however, these complex webs of offshore entities have largely insulated governments from sustained international scrutiny.

This half-day conference brings together leading scholars, practitioners and advocates to analyze, for the first time, Central Asia’s hidden offshore connections.


Monday, April 1

Group Dinner, 7:00pm

Tuesday, April 2


9am: Welcoming Remarks- Kim Marten, Acting Director of the Harriman Institute

9:10-9:20 Introductory Remarks- Alex Cooley, Columbia University

9:20-11:00 Panel 1: Central Asia’s Hidden Offshore Connections

  • John Heathershaw, University of Exeter (Confirmed)
  • Sarah Green, Senior Director, Enforcement Department FINRA (Confirmed)
  • Scott Horton, Columbia Law School and Harpers (Confirmed)
  • Anthony Richter, Associate Director, Open Societies Foundation (Confirmed)

11:00-11:15 Coffee Break

11:15-1:00 Panel 2: Kyrgyzstan’s Offshore Practices

  • Tom Mayne, Global Witness, Researcher for report “Grave Secrecy” (Confirmed) http://www.globalwitness.org/library/grave-secrecy
  • Baktugul Jeenbayeva, Interim Governor, Central Bank of the Kyrgyz Republic (Invited)
  • Asel Doolotkeldieva and Kemel Toktomushev, PhD students, University of Exeter, Kyrgyzstan’s Mining Industry, Manas Fuel Contracts and Offshore ties (confirmed)