LONDON — Six years ago, the government of Kurmanbek Bakiyev nearly killed me. I remember it well, because it killed a man standing near me. It wasn’t specifically me, or him, they were trying to kill. They were simply firing live rounds at protesters.
This was a forgotten massacre in an overlooked country. The killings took place in Bishkek, the rickety capital of the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan, at the start of the 2010 revolution that overthrew Mr. Bakiyev’s autocratic rule.
His regime had been about one thing: personal plunder. But the Kyrgyz people’s patience had finally worn out. That April I was among the crowd near the presidential palace chanting “Stop corruption now” when the guards started shooting.
I ran for my life, but the Kyrgyz man nearby was not so lucky. I saw his bloodied, punctured body being dragged away by other protesters. As the regime teetered and fell, Mr. Bakiyev fled and found refuge in Belarus. Some days later I paid a visit to the Bishkek morgue to record how many people had been shot. I saw plenty. More than 40 protesters were killed.
This is why it angers me that today, the dictator’s son and confidant, Maxim Bakiyev, lives in a mansion purchased in 2010 for $4.3 million in a London suburb less than 20 miles from my own family home. Little did I know, when I flew back after the Bishkek massacre, that Mr. Bakiyev was also traveling to Britain.
Of course, it was no surprise, because London has become a personal valet to men like him: It’s a dictators’ safe space, where billions of dollars are laundered through the London real estate market every year, contributing to what the National Crime Agency estimates to be an annual total of more $125 billion laundered in Britain. (more...)