Following a corruption investigation into the purchase of COVID vaccines, Kyrgyzstan’s health minister was sentenced to jail for recommending a poisonous root as a treatment for coronavirus.
He was promoting a homemade liquid solution based on the poisonous root, also known as wolfsbane, to cure coronavirus and other diseases, Alymkadyr Beishenaliyev has been dubbed “aconite.”
Prosecutors allege that Beishenaliyev was involved in the purchase of more than two million coronavirus vaccine doses in excess of national requirements, with proceeds “being transferred to offshore accounts.”
According to a statement, the money stolen totaled 1.5 billion soms ($19 million, 17.5 million euros).
“Despite receiving free coronavirus vaccines from China, Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and international organizations, Kyrgyzstan received an additional 2,460,000 doses of coronavirus vaccines from foreign companies in 2021,” according to the report.
Beishenaliyev has been under pressure, with his deputies in May calling for his sacking and accusing him of bullying ministry employees, including using sexual taunts.
President Sadyr Japarov’s ally says Beishenaliyev is credited as the ultimate author of the aconite solution used in state hospitals.
He claimed that Japarov had personally given doctors a recipe that his father had passed down to him.
The arrest has fueled speculation about government infighting. Just hours before his arrest, Beishenaliyev made a public appearance alongside the president on Thursday morning.
A detachment of men in military uniforms entered the health ministry that evening, and Beishenaliyev was handcuffed in his office, according to video footage released by the prosecutors that evening.
Beishenaliyev has denied the charges and accused the state security services of putting pressure on him.
During the ex-Soviet country’s three-decade independence, three presidents have been deposed by political crises, with Japarov being released from prison before rising to power during post-election chaos in 2020.
Japarov, 53, was serving a sentence for hostage-taking, which he claimed was unjustified and an attempt to stymie his opposition activities.